by Magnus Lindberg

In memoriam Witold Lutoslawski

Empty sheet

Magnus Lindberg


Music Finland


My first orchestral piece, Sculpture II, written in 1980–81, was a monstrous attempt to create a dense orchestral texture and required two conductors in performance. The project was originally conceived in three movements (Trois sculptures), but due to the complexity I was able to achieve only the middle section of the work.

I returned to the symphony orchestra in 1983, when I started work on Kraft, which was completed in 1985. I was still obsessed by the large apparatus of the late Romantics (Mahler, Strauss, et al.) and wanted to outdo them. I included six soloists and live electronics in an attempt to control the entire aural space. The orchestra was augmented by a massive array of unconventional percussion instruments, most of them devised from material picked up in scrapyards.

Between 1989 and 19911 wrote three works — Kinetics, Marea and Joy — each displaying a different attitude towards orchestral writing. Kinetics, scored for a full-size symphony orchestra, represented a new departure for me. In Sculpture and Kraft I had organized the music in terms of blocks of sound and percussive units, but for Kinetics I was seeking a more sonorous harmonic language, in which the orchestral timbres would relate more directly to the harmony. Marea requires a classical orchestra of the kind familiar to Mozart and Beethoven. I was becoming more and more interested in clarity of texture. With Joy I set out to create the sound of a full orchestra, but with only twenty-three players and live electronics.

My next orchestral piece was Corrente II, composed in 1992. Here I wanted to explore a continuous texture expressed in a variety of sound combinations ranging between chamber groupings and a full symphony orchestra.

Aura is in some ways a synthesis of all these different approaches to orchestral writing. It is self-evident that with a larger-scale work the composer is more concerned with matters of form and the need to establish a balance between the needs of form and of content.

One composer this century to have refreshed the relationship between form and content is Witold Lutoslawski. His concept of a two-part structure, in which the material is first presented simply and unadorned and then developed into a rounded entity, offered a genuine and clear approach to the question of form.

The structure of Aura might lead one to refer to it as a symphony. However, it is not a symphony. Perhaps ‘concerto for orchestra’ would be more appropriate as a description. But it is not that either. Individual instruments and groups of instruments are treated in a virtuosic way, yet that attitude is more a result of the treatment of the material than of an approach to instrumental writing.

Aura has four movements, played without a break. The first movement can almost stand alone. It is rich in material and alternates tutti sections with soloistic passages for groups of instruments. The second movement opens with an archaic-sounding chorale for the brass; this slowly develops into harsh chords, alternating with a more ornamented texture which reflects a different view of the same harmonic material. This textural tension is gradually resolved as the basic characteristics of the material disappear — reminiscent of Beethoven’s development sections, where he tends to destroy the essence of his original themes.

The third movement assembles a number of quirky, mechanical ostinatos, which are bound together by an unremitting perpetuum mobile. The material is handled kaleidoscopically, allowing apparently random juxtapositions and developments. In the final movement, this meandering motion is given a direction and the music evolves from rather minimalist, background patterns into a toccata-like texture, not unlike the form of resolution to be found in Prokofiev’s late piano sonatas. This culminates in a dense, hectic passage, similar to climaxes engineered by Stravinsky or Skryabin. This polyrhythmic march becomes a kind of magnet, attracting to it material explored earlier in the work.

The epilogue is an intense chorale for the high strings, based on one of the important motifs in the work. major thirds doubled over many octaves simultaneously.

While I was working on Aura, I heard the news of the death of Witold Lutoslawski. I wanted to honour him and dedicating Aura to his memory was the most appropriate way of doing so.

© Magnus Lindberg, 1995

(for the English premiere in Aldeburgh Festival of Music and Arts, June 1995)

Aura é uma obra monumental, de extensa duração; parece destinada a ser a síntese dos anos 90 de Lindberg, da mesma forma que Kraft foi a sua síntese dos anos 80.

Aura tem quatro andamentos, mas é interpretada sem interrupções. A sua extensão e riqueza interiores dão-lhe uma dimensão quase sinfónica. Todavia, Lindberg salientou que esta obra não é nem uma sinfonia nem um concerto para orquestra. A obra, tecnicamente, exige muitos dos intérpretes, o que, segundo a explicação de Lindberg, deve-se mais ao processamento do material musical do que a uma abordagem instrumental.

O 1o andamento, que começa nas profundezas dos registos baixos, tal como o roncar de um vulcão, é a combinação de aspectos da música orquestral e de câmara. Lindberg disse que o primeiro andamento poderia perfeitamente permanecer sozinho, como um trabalho independente. O seu magnífico acorde final mistura-se aos pilares harmónicos austeramente arcaicos do 2.o andamento, o qual, se seguirmos o modelo sinfónico, funciona como o andamento lento.

O 3.o andamento é composto por vários ostinati, gerando uma energia cinética que determina e o culminar polirítmico arrebatador do andamento final, de grande efeito. Esta pico de tensão é seguido de um curto mas tocante epílogo dominado pelas cordas de influência sonora, sem dúvida alguma Sibeliana, reminiscente da 6.a e 7.a Sinfonias e Tapiola.

Aura é, até hoje, o mais longo trabalho de Lindberg e uma das principais questões da sua criação foi a construção de uma estrutura que sustente o conteúdo – neste caso, também, a associação a Sibelius é evidente, especialmente no que diz respeito à 7.a Sinfonia.

© Kimmo Korhonen, 1993

(Nos confins da Europa)

(for the premiere in Portugal)


3343 4331 13 1, str, pno+cel, str:16 14 12 10 8 [[2fl, pic, 2ob, ehn, 2cl in B, cl in Es+cl in B, bcl, 2fag, cfag,], 2tr in C, tr in C+tr in Es, 2trb, btrb]


Works for Orchestra or Large Ensemble


Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, cond. Kazufumi Yamashita, Tokyo, June 11, 1994. See also: Zungenstimmen.

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by the Suntory International Program for Music Composition.

+ Add information