Gudrun’s 4th Song

Gudrun’s 4th Song (1994-96) opera for 6 vocal soloists, 2 childrens voices, male choir and ensemble. 60 minutes.

Guðrún´s 4th Song, the work that brought Tómasson the Nordic Council Music Prize, is an operatic work based on poems from the old Icelandic Edda. It consists of 12 numbers for voices and chamber ensemble separated by spoken dialogue. Guðrún´s 4th Song was originally produced by OperaNord in a shipping dock in Copenhagen in the summer of 1996 and had 24 sold out performances.

The opera tells the harrowing tale of Guðrún, who, after the murder of her husband Sigurd the dragon-slayer, is urged to marry Atli. The opera builds steadily to its dramatic climax: after Atli murders her two brothers, Guðrún takes her revenge by killing their sons and serving him their blood and roasted hearts. Tómasson´s score – his largest to date – follows the extremes of the dramatic situtation, from hauntingly beautiful soliloquies to passages of outspoken drama and violence.

Guðrún´s 4th Song has also been performed in a concert version in Iceland and Sweden and was released on CD by BIS in 1998.

In 2004 Tómasson selected three songs and two interludes for soprano and ensemble or soprano and orchestra titled Songs of Guðrún.

”Haukur Tómasson´s composition “Guðrún´s 4th Song” accommodates huge tension between its modern, innovative idiom and the ancient literary Edda tradition which the composer builds upon. The music is a strong interpretation of great emotions: From the light sweetness of love to the dark rage of hate. It is a monumental work, in which melodious and intense arias alternate with ice-cold sensuality and fateful rhythms to create an overall powerful impression reminiscent of the major Icelandic sagas.”
The Nordic Council Music Committee (NOMUS), Music Prize 2004.

Reviews for Guðrún´s 4th Song (performance):
“This production was a triumph… outstanding music… with rhythmic drive, a tragic monumentality and its own ice-cold logic.” Berlingske Tidende (Denmark), July 1996.

“Overpowering…”
Information (Denmark), July 1996.

“With this work, something great and lasting has been created…”
Nordic Sounds, November 1996.

“A more beautiful death has never been heard on the operatic stage.”
Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), July 2005.

Reviews for BIS-CD 908:
„[Tómasson] has set his poetic fragments in music of piercing clarity of vision and keenness of ear… [The music] mesmerises with its merging levels of instrumental and vocal recession.“
BBC Music Magazine, September 1998.

“Very strongly recommended.” Gramophone, December 1998.

“An extraordinary listening experience, one I recommend unhesitantly.” John Story, Fanfare May/June 2000.

Guðrún´s 4th Song has also been performed in a concert version in Iceland and Sweden and was released on CD by BIS in 1998.

Listen to excerpt: