Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson

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Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson (8 September 1925 - 1 January 2005)[1] was an Icelandic composer, pianist and conductor.

Magnús studied with Franz Mixa and Victor Urbancic at the Reykjavík College of Music (1935–7, 1939–45) and with Bernard Wagenaar and Marion Bauer at the Juilliard School (1947–53). He was active as répétiteur and conductor at the Icelandic National Theatre (1956–61),[1] and was a producer at the Icelandic State Broadcasting Service until 1974;[1] he was also a founder member of Musica Nova in 1959.[2] After a period in the USA (1977–87), he took up residence again in Iceland.

In the 1950s and early 60s Magnús was at the forefront of the Icelandic avant garde. His Fjórar abstraksjónir (‘Four Abstractions’, 1950) for piano was the first Icelandic 12-note composition;[1] he was also a pioneer in electronic music,[3][4] composing his Elektrónísk stúdía for woodwind quintet, piano and tape in 1958. In 1971 he stopped composing for almost a decade; this extended silence was eventually broken with his Adagio (1980) for strings, celesta and percussion, which marks a significant stylistic shift in his music. Like the works which followed, it abandons his earlier experimental style for a more simple, neo-romantic lyricism.

In 1995 Jóhannson handed over his works to the National and University Library of Iceland for preservation.[5] Works (selective list):

  • Ballet: Frostrósir [Frostwork], dancers, chbr orch, tape, lighting, 1968
  • Orch: Punktar [Points], orch, tape, 1961; Adagio, str, cel, perc, 1980
  • Inst and tape: Fjórar abstraksjónir [4 Abstractions], pf, 1951; Ionization, org, 1957; Elektrónísk stúdía, ww qnt, pf, tape, 1958; 15 Minigrams, fl, ob, cl, bn, 1960; Samstirni [Constellations], tape, 1961; Sonorities III, pf, tape, 1972; Solitude, fl, 1983; Sonorities VI, vn, 1989
  • Songs, incid music, music for film and TV[6][7][8][9]


  • Elektronísk stúdía Seven compositions by Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson, among them are Samstirni/Constellation and Elektrónísk stúdía. ("Electronic Study", Smekkleysa 2000)
  • Í rökkri Songs by Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson, performed by Ásgerður Júníusdóttir and Árni Heimir Ingólfsson, remixes by Ghostigital, Davíð Brynjar Franzson and others. ("At Twilight", Smekkleysa, 2006)
  • Langt fyrir utan ystu skóga Songs by Björk, Gunnar Reynir Sveinsson, Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson, performed by Ágerður Júníusdóttir and Jónas Sen and the jazz band Sveitin. ("Far Beyond the Remotest Forests", Smekkleysa, 2011)
  • Solitude A composition on the album "Solitude" with flute music played by Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson, flute, and Michael McHale, piano. (Delos, 2015)
  • Adagio An orchestral composition on the album "Four Icelandic Orchestral Works" performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Petri Sakari. (ITM, 1989)


  1. ^ a b c d "Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson tónskáld". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). 4 January 2005. p. 25. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  2. ^ LIST Icelandic Art News Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Harpa Celebrates Alternative Music Iceland Review Online 3 March 2012
  4. ^ Hans Ulrich Obrist talks to Björk – Electronic Beats
  5. ^ "Handrit í þjóðarbókhlöðuna". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). 25 August 1995. p. 13. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  6. ^ 93.9 BOB FM - 80's...90's...& WHATEVER! :: Motorlab #3 :: AMG Album
  7. ^ The Reykjavik Grapevine Album Review / A Peek At Dark Music Days 2012
  8. ^ Bibliography of Icelandic Sound Recordings Landsbókasafn Íslands, 2000
  9. ^ "Icelandic Music for Solo violin" Record Review: Volume 19, Det Virtuelle MusikBibliotek

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