fimmtudagur, janúar 25, 2007

Jón Leifs

Jón Leifs (1899 - 1968)

Jón Leifs grew up in Reykjavík. In 1916, despite the fact that the First World War was in full swing, he left Iceland to study at the Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, Germany. Five years later in 1921 he graduated in piano, after studying conducting an composition as well. About the same time, a fellow student at the Conservatory, Annie Riethof, became his first wife. Except for the two years during which Leifs was music director for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, the married couple and their two daughters made their home in Germany.In 1944 they succeeded in fleeing to Sweden to escape the nazists.
Jón Leifs had considerable success during his years in Germany, both as a composer and as a conductor. He conducted some of the best orchestras in the country and in the spring of 1926 went with the Hamburg Philharmonic on a concert tour to Norway, the Faeroes and Iceland, thus giving Icelanders a chance to hear a live symphony orchestra for the first time. His own works where often performed, both in concerts and in radio, and many of them were published. Leifs also wrote a large number of articles that were printed in various respected publications in Germany. Leifs success in Germany came to an abrupt end with the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, and four years later his works were banned in Germany, in part because his wife was of Jewish descent.
When Jón Leifs settled permanently in Iceland at the end of World War II he was then in his mid-forties, and a known and accomplished artist. The experience of living on the mainland of Europe during and between wars was behind him.
A new chapter began in Leif's life whit his return home in 1945, he was instantly engrossed in the concern of artists in Iceland. Only a few days after he landed in Reykjavík, the Society of Icelandic Composers was founded; Leifs remained president of the association for most of the time. At his instigation, the Performing Rights Society of Iceland STEF, was also founded. Leifs was president of this association as well for most of the time, and managing director until he died, in Reykjavík on July 30, 1968.

Jón Leifs composed about 70 works, including many for orchestra, both with and without voice. (He composed also some works for Male Choir, both for a Capella and with instruments.) It is impossible to tie his work to any specific musical trend of the time and it would not be fruitful to attach his work to any particular school of 20th century music. Indeed, he rejected the influence of others. Leif's music was a current of its own that lived and thrived by itself without having any particular influence on other composers.

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