Leifs, Jón, eminent Icelandic composer, conductor, and administrator; b. Sólheimar, May 1, 1899; d. Reykjavik, July 30, 1968. He entered the Leipzig Cons. in 1916, where he was a student of Graener and Szendrei (composition), Krehl (theory), Paul (harmony and counterpoint), Teichmüller (piano; diploma, 1921), and Lohse and Scherchen (conducting). With the exception of his tenure as music director of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service in Reykjavik (1935-37), he worked in Germany as a composer and conductor. In 1926 he appeared as a guest conductor of the Hamburg Phil. on a tour of Norway, the Faeroes, and Iceland. After marrying a woman of Jewish descent, the Nazi regime banned Leifs’ music in 1937. He and his family were able to flee to Sweden in 1944. In 1945 they settled in Iceland. He became president of the newly organized Soc. of Icelandic Composers. He also was the founder of STEF, an association of composers and copyright owners (1948), and of Islandia Edition (1949), as well as president of the Nordic Council of Composers (1952-54; 1964-66). Leifs publ. the books Tónlistarhaettir (Musical Form; Leipzig, 1922) and Islands künstlerische Anregung (Reykjavik, 1951). In his compositions, he utilized various resources, ranging from the medieval Icelandic tvisöngur to folk melos.
dramatic:Galdra-Loflr, incidental music to the drama (1925; Copenhagen, Sept. 3, 1938; orch. suite, 1925; overture, 1928); Baldr, music drama without words for Chorus, Dancers, and Orch. (1948; Reykjavik, March 24, 1991). orch.:Trilogia piccoa (1919-24; Karlsbad, Nov. 28, 1925); Icelandic Overture, with optional chorus (1926); Variazione pastorale, on a theme of Beethoven (1927; also for String Quartet); Organ Concerto (1927-28; Wiesbaden, April 26, 1935); Icelandic Dances (1928; also for Piano); Sögu-Sinfónia (Saga Sym.; 1941-42; Helsinki, Sept. 18, 1950); Reflections from the North for Strings (1952); Landsýn (Landfall), overture with optional chorus (1955; Reykjavik, Feb. 22, 1962); priú óhlutraen málverk (3 Abstract Pictures; 1955-60; Reykjavik, Dec. 7, 1961); Geysir (1961; Reykjavik, Nov. 1, 1984); Hekla, overture with optional chorus (1961; Helsinki, Oct. 2, 1964); Hinzta kveoja [Last Greeting]: In memoriam 30. Sept. 1961: Elegie for Strings (1961); Vtkingasvar (Viking Answer; 1962); Fine I (1963) and II for Vibraphone and Strings (1963); Hughreysting (Consolation) for Strings (1968). chamber:Étude for Violin (1924); Nocturne for Harp (1931-33); 3 string quartets: No. 1, Mors et vita (1939), No. 2, Vita et mors (1948-51), and No. 3, El Greco (1965); Quintet for Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, Viola, and Cello (1959); Scherzso concreto for 8 Winds, Viola, and Cello (1964). keyboard: piano:Intermezzo-Torrek (1919); 4 Pieces (1922); Icelandic Dances (1929); New Icelandic Dances (1931); Juvenile Song (1960). organ:Praeludia organo (1951). vocal:The Lord’s Prayer for Soprano or Tenor and Organ (1929); Iceland Cantata for Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1929-30); Icelandic Dances for Voice, Chorus, and Orch. (1932); 3 oratorios: Edda I: The Creation of the World for Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (1936-39), II: The Life of the Gods for Mezzo- soprano, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (1951-56), and 17/; The Twilight of the Gods for Chorus and Orch. (1966-68; unfinished); Lay of Gudrun for Mezzo-soprano, Tenor, Bass, and Orch. (1940; Oslo, Sept. 29, 1948); Requiem for Chorus (1947); Mountain Songs for Soloists, Men’s Chorus, Percussion, and Double Bass (1948); Vorvisa (Spring Song) for Chorus and Orch. (1958); In Memoriam J(ónas) H(allgrimsson) for Mezzo-soprano or Baritone and Piano (1958; also for Chorus and Orch., 1961); Hekla for Chorus and Orch. (1961); Battle Song for Chorus and Orch. (1964); Dettifoss for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1964); Night for Tenor, Bass, and Small Orch. (1964); Of Helgi the Hunding Killer for Alto, Bass, and Chamber Orch. (1964); Hafis (Drift Ice) for Chorus and Orch. (1965); mixed and men’s choruses; solo songs; folk song arrangements.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire