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Both of Magnus Lindberg’s major new works receive UK premieres at the Barbican in the coming months. His orchestral Serenades is performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu and Yuja Wang tours Piano Concerto No.3 to Paris, Hamburg, Rome and London.

Magnus Lindberg’s favoured focus on large-scale orchestral composition has continued in recent years with his Serenades premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2021 and his Piano Concerto No.3 written for the formidable soloistic talents of Yuja Wang, completed in 2022. Both works receive their first UK performances at the Barbican in London in coming months: Serenades is performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu (17 February) and Piano Concerto No.3 receives its first European performances by the Orchestre de Paris (13 April), the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in Hamburg (5 May), the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome (11 May) and the London Symphony Orchestra (24 May), all with Yuja Wang as soloist.

Serenades was composed in 2020 in response to a three-way commission from the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. The premiere was delayed due to the pandemic, finally taking place in Chicago in December 2021 under the direction of Hannu Lintu. This was followed by performances in Paris, Helsinki and Hamburg in 2022. The 15-minute score, composed as a single movement span, is built from a series of instrumental tableaux – hence the plural Serenades of the title.

Lindberg describes the composition of Serenades: “Much of the music I write is often fast and quite explosive – ‘slow music’ was never really my tonality, so to speak. So, when I was asked to write a serenade, I began with a musical idea that deep down has a slow-moving feeling, but then takes off in many contrasting directions, with big cuts and quick shifts. Even so, the music conveys a sort of night-time quality… I knew I had to write more than just slow music – I wanted to write music that features the orchestra’s shimmering virtuosity. So, in the end, the serenade I composed is a wild one.”

Chicago Classical Review noted about Serenades at its premiere that, “though the title may suggest a relaxed, pastoral idyll similar to the serenades of Brahms and Dvorák, Lindberg’s new work is hardly that. This rugged score is cast in the Finnish composer’s prevailing tense, explosive style; yet it also displays the fleeting lyricism that has been part of his more recent music, notably, the folk-flavoured Clarinet Concerto. There is a lurking elemental power in this turbulent work, echoing Lindberg’s compatriot Jean Sibelius, but transmuted through a 21st-century lens.”

Piano virtuoso Yuja Wang is travelling widely with Lindberg’s new Piano Concerto No.3, following its world premiere on 13 October 2022 with the San Francisco Symphony under Esa-Pekka Salonen. Commissioned by China National Centre for The Performing Arts, San Francisco Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonie de Paris - Orchestre de Paris, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, and the New York Philharmonic, further performances with Yuja Wang have taken place to date in Toronto and New York. European performances follow in the coming months in Paris under Klaus Mäkelä (13 April), in Hamburg with Esa-Pekka Salonen (5 May), the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome under Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla (11 May) and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth a the Barbican in London (24 May) and at the Brighton Festival (26 May).

Magnus Lindberg describes his epic new concerto, cast in three large-scale movements making up the 32-minute duration: “It is almost like an opera – it’s so rich in its storytelling. It’s huge. In a way, it’s the biggest piece I’ve written… I would almost call it three concertos in one piece… I have a chart of eight different characters that I’ve arranged like a William Faulkner novel: There are many stories going on at the same time – you present one, move on to the next one, then return to another one. Every time a story returns, it has something new to say.”

John Rockwell, reviewing the New York performance at Lincoln Center in the Financial Times, described Piano Concerto No.3 as “alternately grand and intimately beautiful. There is a true dialogue between soloist and orchestra, both of whom play almost continuously, except for two virtuosic cadenzas. The score conveys lush grandeur. There’s harmonic tartness, but never abrasiveness: one hears Lindberg’s affection for Bartók, but maybe Rachmaninov, too… it recalls the grand concertos of yore. It’s ravishing, as was Wang’s playing.”

>  Further information on Work: Serenades

Photo: Philip Gatward

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