Skip to page content

Daníel Bjarnason


About this Artist

Daníel Bjarnason is one of Iceland’s foremost musical voices today, increasingly in demand as conductor, composer, and programmer. He is Artist in Collaboration with Iceland Symphony Orchestra, an appointment that follows his tenures as Principal Guest Conductor and Artist in Residence.

As guest conductor, he debuts this season with Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, where his music has been previously performed, returns to Göteborgs Symfoniker, and is a regular presence in Reykjavík with Iceland Symphony Orchestra throughout the season.

Keeping a busy composing schedule alongside his conducting commitments, many of his works are taken up beyond their premieres and regularly programmed around the world. This season, two new works saw world premieres: Feast, for piano and orchestra, was commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen with Víkingur Ólafsson as soloist, while Say, for percussion and orchestra, was written for Martin Grubinger and presented by hr-Sinfonieorchester.

In 2020/21, Bjarnason appeared with Tapiola Sinfonietta, while regularly conducting Iceland Symphony, presenting the Icelandic premiere of his violin concerto Scordatura with Pekka Kuusisto. He also had a new short piece premiered by Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which previously commissioned other works from him.

He has previously conducted Göteborgs Symfoniker, Gävle Symfoniorkester, Aalborg Symfoniorkester, and Turun Filharmoninen Orkesteri in Europe, while in North America, he has appeared with Los Angeles Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony orchestras, and in Japan with Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.

Bjarnason maintains a close connection with Los Angeles Philharmonic, having written From Space I Saw Earth for Gustavo Dudamel, Zubin Mehta and Esa-Pekka Salonen to conduct together at the orchestra’s Centennial Birthday Celebration Concert and Gala in 2019. In 2017, they premiered Bjarnason’s violin concerto Scordatura at the Hollywood Bowl, in a co-commission with Iceland Symphony for Pekka Kuusisto, while he co-curated the orchestra’s Reykjavík Festival, an eclectic and multi-disciplinary 17-day event, in which he featured as conductor and composer. 

Scordatura became a success with audiences and orchestras and remains very popular. Kuusisto has performed the work with Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, National Arts Center orchestras, Swedish Radio and Finnish Radio symphony orchestras, Göteborgs Symfoniker, MDR Sinfonieorchester, and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. Bjarnason conducts the recording of the work with Kuusisto, as part of the final instalment of a three-album recording project with Iceland Symphony for Sono Luminus, focussing on Icelandic music and composers.

Since its premiere in 2017, his first opera Brothers, for the Danish National Opera, directed by Kasper Holten, based on the Susanne Bier film of the same name, was also revived in Reykjavík by the Icelandic Opera in 2018 and opened Budapest’s 2019 Armel Opera Festival.

Bjarnason conducted the world premiere of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Last and First Men, a multimedia work narrated by Tilda Swinton, at the 2017 Manchester International Festival with BBC Philharmonic and subsequently at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra the following year.

A recipient of numerous accolades, in 2018 he was awarded the Optimism prize by the President of Iceland, won the 8th Harpa Nordic Film Composers Award for the feature film Under the Tree, and was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize. He also won Composer of the Year, Best Composer/Best Composition, and Best Performer at the Icelandic Music Awards in recent years.

Bjarnason studied piano, composition, and conducting in Reykjavík and pursued further studies in orchestral conducting at Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. He has released several albums for the label Bedroom Community.

Daníel Bjarnason is published by Edition Peters.