A guide to Magnus Lindberg’s music

Magnus Lindberg

The Finn has become a concert hall staple – but his best works predate his embrace of colour and hyper-romanticism - writes Tom Service.

It's a long way from here to here, you'd have thought: the first is from Magnus Lindberg's 1985 piece Kraft (Power), a work that one commentator has called Lindberg's Rite of Spring, scored for huge orchestra, a group of perambulatory soloists, an assemblage of junkyard percussion, and live electronics; music that's one of the great sonic brouhahas of the late 20th century. Kraft is the aural result of what happens when German metal-merchants Einstürzende Neubauten meets Xenakis (two of Lindberg's most important inspirations at the time) filtered through an iconoclastic twentysomething Finnish composer's imagination.

The second is from Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto, a piece composed 17 years later, and which sounds – well, completely, utterly, totally different. The concerto sounds more like what happens when Gershwin meets Sibelius and Stravinsky, perhaps on some convenient Icelandic ice-floe in the mid-Atlantic, in a voluptuously melodic crossing of cultures. The question is how Lindberg got from one to the other – and how and why this music has come to be one of the definitive sounds of the 21st century orchestra, as ensembles from the New York Philharmonic to the Finnish Radio Symphony and the BBC Symphony champion Lindberg, making him one of the most-performed composers of new orchestral music.

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