Emil Thoroddsen grew up in Reykjavik and studied philosophy, art history and painting in Copenhagen from 1917-1920. In 1920 he went to Germany and studied music in Dresden and Leipzig until 1924. He returned to Reykjavik in 1924 and was immediately hired as a conductor at the City Theatre. In 1930 he was appointed the chief accompanist and conductor at the newly founded Iceland National Broadcasting Service. While working there he arranged a lot of Icelandic folk songs, foreign songs and orchestral music and arranged medleys from popular Icelandic folk songs.
Thoroddsen was a versatile artist. Besides his musical activities he worked for the theatre, writing revues and dramatizations, edited a weekly periodical, wrote articles on painting, theatre and music in the daily Morgunbladid and was a gifted painter. The respectable composer and organist Pall Isolfsson (1893-1974) once said Emil Thoroddsen had been the most talented artist that he had ever known: “Everything was child´s play for him: music, painting, poetry, prank, kindness, efficiency, drinking…”
Emil Thoroddsen wrote a lot of songs for soloists and/or choirs. His most famous song is without any doubt Hver a ser fegra fodurland, which was premiered on June 17, 1944 at Thingvellir when Iceland became a republic. This was the last song that Emil Thoroddsen composed. Shortly after its premier he passed away, only 46 years old.