I n 1926, something extraordinary happened on the Faroe Islands, a tiny archipelago marooned between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic. En route to Iceland, the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra steamed towards the island of Streymoy and docked at the Faroese capital, Tórshavn. Hours later, the orchestra presented a concert in a large warehouse attended by hundreds of the town’s 15,000 inhabitants. “The music glided like a huge, well-oiled machine,” wrote the Faroese novelist William Heinesen in a...

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