Played by the best orchestras, ensembles and soloists, his music reflects a powerful sense of drama. The variety of rhythms and sounds, the combination of lyrical and percussive moments, give to his compositions a unique intensity.
Áskell Másson (b. 21. November 1953) is amongst Iceland´s leading composers. With a varied background as a woodwind player and percussionist, he was appointed composer and instrumentalist of the Ballet of the National Theatre in Reykjavik in l973 and in his early tventies he worked considerably in the theatre though always composing concert music.
His early works were often heard at Scandinavian music festivals from 1974 and onwards, but in 1980 his Clainet Concerto was presented at the Rostrum of Composers in Paris, and being a specially recommended piece by a composer under the age of thirty, this was an important recognition of his compositional work.
In the seventies, he was a pioneer in the field of percussion in Iceland and elsewhere, playing and composing, using new methods and instrumental combinations and techniques.
In 1978-1983 he worked as a producer at the Iceland State Radio after which he has devoted his time exclusively to composition.
He was Secretary General of the Society of Icelandic Composers in 1983-85, and President/Vice President of the Performing Rights Society (STEF) l989-99 being still on the board today.
After his childhood studies in music he went to London to study privately percussion with the renowned James Blades and harmony and counterpoint with Patrick Savill.
He has worked with some of the finest soloists (Christian Lindberg, Evelyn Glennie, Ole Edvard Antonsen, Roger Woodward) orchestras (New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Wienna Radio Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic) and conductors (Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leif Segerstam, Leonard Slatkin, Jerzy Maksymiuk) in the world, often staying periodically in artists´residences worldwide.
(See separate lists over main works, soloists, orchestras, conductors and critics´comments)
His music has been described as:
“...ethereal in sound and has an expressive character that is withdrawn yet full of intensity” (Okto November for strings)
”Extremely unusual sounds reminiscent of both the human voice and of electrical instruments” (Helfro for percussion)
“a gem” (Blik for solo clarinet)
Göran Bergendal, New Music in Iceland
“.. an essential lyricism coupled with a seductive, even sensous manipulation of sound” (an all Masson concert in the Wigmore Hall, London)
Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph.
(Masson)”…has extraordinary insight into the unique attributes of each instrument for which he writes…”
Hilary Finch, Nordic Sounds.
His music has been heard at festivals all over the world including the Gulbenkian Festival, ISCM World Music Days, Hong Kong Arts festival, Sydney Spring Festival, Nordic Music Days, Blossom Festival, Cleveland and many more.
Recently, Evelyn Glennie with the Orchestre du Luxembourg recorded a live rendition of Massons´: Konzertstück for Snare Drum and Orchestra and recent premiéres include:
Violin Concerto last April with Sigrun Edvaldsdottir and the Iceland Symphony with Rumon Gamba conducting,
Quatrain saxophone concerto premiered last October by the Rascher Saxophone Quartet (for who it was written) with the Finnish Pori Sinfonietta and Petri Sakari conducting,
Bois Chantant for bass clarinet and marimba at the Dark Music Days in Reykjavik,
his clinic at the PASIC, Ohio, USA where Michael Burritt presented a new version of Masson´s Impromtu for solo marimba,
music for the dance piece, We have arrived (together with Maja Ratkje) presented at the Nordic Music Days 2006,
Seig eg I bjorg for male choir and orchestra composed for the 90 years anniversary of male choir Fostbraedur, premiered last October
the upcoming premiere of his Percussion Sonata for Madoka Ogasawara in The Black Diamond Auditorium in Copenhagen later in November
and the premiére of his Cecilia Oratorio for large forces planned for 22nd November 2007.