Magnus Lindberg

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

At the end of one of his parables, Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” That’s also the spirit of a group called Ears Open, formed by Esa Pekka Salonen and Magnus Lindberg back when they were students at the Helsinki Academy, to raise the profile of new music in Finland.

Years later, after Salonen became the music director of the LA Philharmonic, he gave Lindberg his first major American commission, a work called “Fresco,” which had its world premiere in Los Angeles on today’s date in 1998.

In contrast to the chilly Northern landscapes of Finland, the title Fresco invokes much warmer places, and Lindberg has described it as reflecting both the ‘loud’ and ‘soft’ style of Indonesian gamelan ensembles, exotic percussion music designed for outdoor ceremonial purposes or for intimate indoor use.

Both East and West Coast critics were impressed. The LA Times wrote: "Lindberg uses the orchestra as if it were one massive instrument full of ever-changing textures... the interplay of light and dark, of colors and textures, commands attention.” And, according to the New York Times: "Lindberg raises orchestral color to the level of line, rhythm, and counterpoint. ... Layers of timbre fall away and new ones are added, easing one episode smoothly into the next."