Hildur Guđnadóttir - Biography

An artist who defies classification and disregards traditional generic boundaries, Icelandic cellist, singer and composer Hildur Guđnadóttir has earned a unique place on the contemporary music scene thanks to her virtuosity, versatility and originality.

Now based in Berlin, she is currently enjoying particular international acclaim for her film and television scores. She continues to receive rave reviews for her haunting soundtrack (an “unorthodox cello concerto”, The Guardian) for Joker, winner of the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival; was awarded an Emmy for her groundbreaking score for the HBO series Chernobyl; and, most recently, was named Television Composer of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards.

In October 2019 she signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, a move she has described as “incredibly exciting”. Her Chernobyl album was released by DG in May this year, and she has also worked previously with the Yellow Label on recordings with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson as well as writing and recording a track for pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s Bach Reworks album.

The new work Guđnadóttir creates in partnership with Deutsche Grammophon in the coming years will expand her existing discography of four acclaimed avant-garde solo albums – Mount A (2006), Without Sinking (2009), Leyfđu Ljósinu (2012) and Saman (2014) – as well as the soundtrack albums for, among others, Joker, Chernobyl, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Mary Magdalene (with Jóhann Jóhannsson) and Icelandic TV series Trapped.

Reflecting her multifaceted musicianship, recent live performances include an appearance with US drone metal band Sunn O))) at the 2017 Convergence festival at the Barbican in London; a set as vocalist and cellist at the 2018 Organ Reframed festival at London’s Union Chapel; and the world premiere live performance of Chernobyl at Unsound 2019 in Kraków.

Born in Reykjavík in 1982, Hildur Guđnadóttir grew up in a musical family and began playing cello at the age of five. She studied at the Reykjavík Music Academy, then moved on to study composition and new media at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and Berlin’s Universität der Künste.

She has written music for, among others, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, National Theatre of Iceland, Tate Modern, the British Film Institute, Royal Swedish Opera and Gothenburg National Theatre. She has also performed and recorded with artists including Hauschka, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Nico Muhly, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Valgeir Sigurdsson, Skúli Sverrisson and David Sylvian, whether as vocalist or playing cello or one of the less traditional instruments she has made her own, such as the Halldorophone (a feedback instrument) or the Ómar (a six-string electroacoustic cello/viola da gamba).

Guđnadóttir was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize as Composer of the Year in 2014 and for the WSA’s 2018 Discovery of the Year Award. She won Best Original Score at the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards (for Mary Magdalene, shared with Jóhannsson) and Best Score at the 2018 Beijing International Film Festival for Journey’s End. This summer, just prior to receiving her Emmy and WSA awards, she was made a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

10/2019