Introducing Magnus Lindberg's Triumph to Exist

On the eve of the centenary of Armistice this November, the London Philharmonic Orchestra will give the world premiere of a new piece by Magnus Lindberg. Jenny Waldman, Director of 14–18 NOW – who jointly commissioned the work with the LPO – tells us more.

One of the guiding principles behind 14–18 NOW, the UK’s national arts programme for the First World War centenary, is the transformative power of the arts to bring the stories of the past to life.

The artworks created by those who lived through the war or died while fighting – the writings of Robert Graves, the paintings of Paul Nash and the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, for example – have had a profound impact on our perception of the Great War and the horrors of the conflict. Now, 100 years later, 14–18 NOW is commissioning contemporary artists, writers and composers to create new works for a new generation, each one inspired by the events of a century ago and their lasting impact.

We are delighted that Magnus Lindberg, the LPO’s former Composer in Residence, accepted a 14–18 NOW commission. Triumph to Exist, his new work, receives its world premiere as the centrepiece to the LPO’s concert at Royal Festival Hall on 10 November. His initial inspiration for the work is a poem written in 1916, the heart of the war, by a fellow Finn.

Edith Södergran’s poem Triumph to Exist is perhaps not what we might expect of wartime poetry. Despite the date of its composition, the poem is positive, even inspirational: ‘I walk on sunshine/I stand on sunshine/I know of nothing but sunshine’, runs one passage. Lindberg’s setting of these century-old words captures their passion.

The work’s timely world premiere takes place on the night before the 100th anniversary of Armistice, the ceasefire that signalled the end of the war. It is joined on the programme by three other works, each with their own wartime resonance: Debussy’s Berceuse héroïque, written in 1914 as his fellow Frenchmen went to war; Requiem Canticles, Stravinsky’s adaptation of the Catholic requiem mass; and The Eternal Gospel, Janáček’s ecstatic 1914 oratorio.

Triumph to Exist is part of the concluding season of 14–18 NOW, which continues until the end of the year. You can find full details of all the remaining events at I hope you can join us on 10 November for what should be a very special evening.

Jenny Waldman, Director, 14–18 NOW

Lindberg 400x400Magnus Lindberg introduces Triumph to Exist

I am particularly drawn to the work of Edith Södergran. She was the first Finnish modernist poet, and like me, she was part of the Swedish-speaking community of Finland. Triumf att finnas till… (Triumph to Exist…) was written by her in 1916, in the middle of the catastrophe and despair of World War 1.
Despite the world events of the time, which are surely the unspoken background to this poem, its meditation on the transience of life is a defiantly positive affirmation of the joy of existence, the outpouring of one who refuses to submit to the hopelessness all around her. For me, it says something deeply essential about the tragedy of millions of young men who gave their lives in that useless slaughter. They were deprived of the simple human triumph to merely exist. Every syllable cries out to be set to music. Magnus Lindberg, August 2018