Jón Leifs (1899-1968)


Jón Leifs is considered the greatest of Icelandic composers. After initial studies in Iceland he reached professional status with his studies and performances in Germany. Through his music and his writing about Icelandic culture he laid the foundation for the rich professional musical world found in Iceland today.

Leifs was in many ways ahead of his time: he was the first Icelander to conduct a full symphony orchestra, he recorded Icelandic folk music at a time when it was not really appreciated, he founded the composers’ copyright union STEF, and composed music which many people considered to be intolerable noise but which is now ranked by some to be amongst the most important achievements in Icelandic music to date.

Leifs’ songs span his whole career and though many of his most ambitious works use full orchestra, many of his most personal thoughts about his world were expressed through the choice of texts and their musical settings.  As with much of his music, the Icelandic landscape and the heritage of folk music found in remote fishing villages all played a role in his works for voice.