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Magnus Lindberg's new orchestral work, Era, commissioned to celebrate the Concertgebouw's 125th anniversary, receives first performances in Amsterdam and London.

The newest orchestral piece by Magnus Lindberg, entitled Era, is a commission to celebrate the 125th anniversary both of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and its iconic concert hall. The world premiere performances take place in Amsterdam on 17 and 18 January conducted by David Robertson, and the UK premiere follows on 9 March as part of a Total Immersion day, New from the North, at the Barbican presented by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Storgårds.

In Amsterdam, the Lindberg premiere is situated in a programme with scandalous musical works from 1913, Berg's Altenberg Lieder, Zemlinsky's Maeterlinck Songs and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, all a century old. Era was commissioned by the Concertgebouw as a present to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of both, with funding from the Composition Commission Fund, set up by a private donor with the intention of stimulating the development of new music and reaching a larger audience.

Lindberg's title, Era, relates both to the 125 year tradition of the Concertgebouw and the decade of the 1910s which the composer has always regarded as the most exciting epoch of music history: "Though my creative personality and early works were formed from the music of Zimmermann and Xenakis, and a certain anarchy related to rock music of that period, I eventually realised that everything goes back to the foundations of Schoenberg and Stravinsky - how could music ever have taken another road? I see my music now as a synthesis of these elements, combined with what I learned from Grisey and the spectralists, and I detect from Kraft to my latest pieces the same underlying tastes and sense of drama.

"In Era I have built the piece from a powerful underpinning in the bass register, rather like a Bourdon or at some moments even a Passacaglia. I was thinking particularly of Sibelius's Fourth Symphony and the way the music evolves from the bass line, rising from low to high register. About half-way through, a second Bourdon is introduced and there is a confrontation between the two ideas. There is a single tempo throughout but, as with other pieces like Al largo, a relatively fast tempo in the foreground is related to a much slower underlying pace. This allows a strong monolithic build-up which should be suited to the Concertgebouw and its cathedral-like resonance, creating a strong dramatic impression overall."

Lindberg's Violin Concerto continues to travel widely: coming months bring its Canadian premiere by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa (21-22 February), and performances with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington (28 February and 1-2 March) and the Belgian National Orchestra in Brussels (23 March).

Lindberg is composing a new ten-minute ensemble work to be premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival on 22 June, co-commissioned in honour of the Britten Centenary and the 200th anniversary of the Royal Philharmonic Society. The Aldeburgh programme also features Lindberg's Counter Phrases and Bubo bubo with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Oliver Knussen.

>  Further information on Work: Era

Photo: Philip Gatward

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