Viola Concerto

by Magnus Lindberg

for viola and orchestra

Empty sheet

Magnus Lindberg

Viola Concerto

Boosey & Hawkes


After having written two cello concertos (1999 and 2013) and two violin
concertos (2006 and 2015), I thought for many years about composing a Viola Concerto.
The instrument has played an important role in classical music,
defining to a large extent the mid-register textures of different
characters from ‘allegro’, ‘andante’, ‘adagio’, ‘presto’ etc., but it
has enjoyed less prominence as a solo instrument. Yet the instrument is
enormously rich, thanks to its different expressive modes, possessing a
huge variety of possibilities.

I wanted to write a big concerto for the instrument, but decided to use a classical orchestra with double wind instruments and strings only. In this work, even the timpani doesn’t become part of the sound palette. Nor is there any other percussion, harps or keyboard instruments. In this way the concerto follows the line of my Violin Concerto No.1 which I scored for a ‘Mozart’-sized orchestra.

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The piece is divided into three movements which are played without
pauses in between, thus sharing all the material. I work with a large
number of different characters, all identified by different harmonies,
tempi and textures, drawing parallels with the course of my Piano Concerto No.3.

This pair of concertos also shares an important harmonic feature –
the incorporation of pentatonic harmonies within my language. The
majority of my works, ever since the early nineties, have been based on a
hybrid model combining ‘combinatorial’ pitch material with ‘spectral’
harmonies. Spectral harmonies, in my case, have mainly been based on
chords respecting the natural overtones, thus creating a clear
distinction between the bass line and the high register. SATB - soprano,
alto, tenor, bass - the universal basis of the different voices, roles
assumed by the different instruments in a classical orchestra, very much
mark out the territory of how my harmonies behave. For me the bass has
so often provided the sense of gravity in my music. With pentatonic
harmonies my fascination has been the ‘anti-gravity’ sensation that is
created. The music of Mussorgsky and, to an even larger extent, the
music of Debussy and Ravel clearly opened up ways to move forwards from
traditional tonal language, leading to Alban Berg and beyond.

I have often spoken about my way of working with musical material as
an ‘extended Sonata form’. Rather than working with the contrasting
difference between a main theme and a secondary theme, I typically have a
collection of characters, with various degrees of contrast between
them. These characters follow each other in a whirlpool-like rapid
manner, often giving the music a kaleidoscopic nature. This then
undergoes a process of clarification towards more uniform expressions,
employing a multitude of different techniques: filtering, diluting,
variations, metamorphoses, developments etc.

The concerto is dedicated to Lawrence Power. He is a musician I truly admire.

I am immensely grateful to the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra with
whom I've been working for more than 40 years and to Karolina Blåberg
for having made this project a reality.

Magnus Lindberg, 2024



2222 2200 00, str, vla solo


Works for Soloist(s) and Orchestra


Lawrence Power, viola, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Nicholas Collon, February 28, 2024, Helsinki

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE. Dedicated to Lawrence Power.

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