11 November 2015: Magnus Lindberg's Violin Concerto

On Wednesday 11 November, violinist Christian Tetzlaff joins the LPO to perform the Violin Concerto No. 1 by the orchestra’s Composer in Residence, Magnus Lindberg. Ahead of the performance, follow the link below to discover the origin of the work’s commission, and how this has shaped the musical language of Lindberg’s inaugural Violin Concerto.

Magnus Lindberg’s career as a composer of concertos began relatively late, in 1994, with Away for clarinet, string orchestra, piano and percussion. But he has since made good that tardy start with no fewer than seven further concertante works: Campana in Aria (1998) for horn and orchestra, two concertos each for piano (1991/94 and 2011–12) and for cello (1999 and 2003), one for clarinet (2002) and this violin concerto (2006) – and his Second Violin Concerto will be premiered in this hall on 9 December by Frank Peter Zimmermann, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jaap van Zweden.

Lindberg’s Violin Concerto No. 1

Lindberg’s Violin Concerto No. 1 was commissioned by the Lincoln Centre in New York in association with the Barbican Centre here in London, the Casa de Música in Porto and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. It was premiered by Lisa Batiashivili (who also recorded it for Sony Classical) in 2006, during the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. Those origins explain the modest orchestration of the work, which is scored for an ensemble of two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and strings, the forces employed in Mozart’s violin concertos. The Mostly Mozart organisers asked Lindberg to create some kind of link with Mozart, and rather than make stylistic allusion, he ‘thought that using the same forces would create a bridge to his sound world’ – but he then subdivides his strings so that he creates the impression of much larger forces.

The opening of the first movement, with the violin soaring effortlessly above the orchestra, may recall the opening of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. The solo line is supported by a gossamer carpet of strings, which soon throw out a little dance-figure, variants of which will prove important; echoes of it now flit around the orchestra. On the surface, the music takes the form of a series of lively conversations between the soloist and other members of the orchestra, occasionally still hinting at a Sibelian soundscape; in the background, the harmony, moving more slowly, suggests the dawning of day, until, with the tempo gradually increasing, the music seems to heave into the full warmth of morning, and the soloist alternately offers passages of pyrotechnics and floats aloft over supportive rafts of colour – larks ascend over Finnish fields as well.

The prominence of the horns underlines the sense that the music is indeed another contribution to the Finnish tradition of nature-painting. The music crests, as if the soloist has reached the crown of some huge hill and now canters down the slope towards the central movement, which follows without a break, and in the same tempo as the first movement had opened – though the mood here is slightly darker. Lindberg allows his soloist a few moments of lyrical repose, but here, too, the tempo gradually increases, as do the demands on the violinist’s technique. The tension in the orchestra is swiftly ratcheted up until a Tapiola-like storm erupts about the solo violin. Like a sudden summer downpour it is enough to allow the skies to clear and the soloist to step forward in a rhapsodic cadenza which, halfway through, enjoys the support of a solo double-bass.

The third movement has a dance-like, perhaps even folk-like quality, with a catchy, syncopated march often animating its progress. Finally, the tempo broadens, like a river reaching the sea.

Programme note © Martin Anderson

Don't miss the performance of Lindberg's Violin Concerto on Wednesday 11 November, conducted by Robin Ticciati and featuring the violinist Christian Tetzlaff.