Magnus Lindberg: 1st Cello Concerto


Recording at the Abbey Road Studios, London

Programme notes

Introduction by Anssi Karttunen

What the press wrote


































































Instrumentation: Perc.Cel.Harp./Str.
Publisher: Boosey&Hawkes
Duration: 25 min.
Recording: Philharmonia, Karttunen, Salonen; Sony Classical SK89810

First performance:

6th of May,1999 Paris, Orchestre de Paris, Anssi Karttunen, Esa-Pekka Salonen


all with Anssi Karttunen

Orchestre de Paris, Anssi Karttunen, Esa-Pekka Salonen
Ojai Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Salonen
St . Petersburg, Kirov Theatre Orchestra, Salonen
Suvisoitto-festival, Avanti!, Salonen
Mikkeli festival, Finland, Kirov Orchestra, Salonen
Barcelona Opera Orchestra, Diego Masson
Brussels, Flanders Philharmonic, John Storgards
Antwerp, Flanders Philharmonic, John Storgards
Finnish Radio Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Manchester, BBC Philharmonic, Susanna Mälkki
Pamplona, Orquesta Pablo Sarasate, Ernest Martinez-Izquierdo
Basel, Basler Symphoniker, Jurjen Hempel
London, Philharmonia, Salonen
Turku Philharmonic, Martinez-Izquierdo
Los Angeles Philharmonic, Salonen
SWR Orchestra Tour of Germany, Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Manchester, BBC Philharmonic, Ramon Gumba
Rotterdam Philharmonic, Susanna Mälkki
Tokyo, NHK Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orquesta Nacional de Porto, Hannu Lintu 7.6.2008 Casa da Musica, Porto



Magnus Lindberg: Cello Concerto
(program notes for performance in Pamplona 2001)

Magnus Lindberg wrote his first piece for cello in 1979, a piece for solo cello that has never been performed as it was written; due to technical problems, the piece needs at least two performers. The Concerto for cello is his fourth concertante work involving the cello, he has also written two solo pieces (Stroke, Partia,) duos with clarinet or piano (Steamboat Bill Jr., Moto) and a number of chamber works involving the cello.

When he started to write the Concerto for cello in 1999, Lindberg could look back to a long experience with the instrument. One can actually see traces of all his previous pieces for cello in this piece. This is a particular character in much of his work, he feels so at ease with his earlier music that he can freely move within his different stylistic periods and thus give a sense of unity to all of his works.

The Concerto is in five movements that follow each other without break, each of them divided into smaller sections. Like in his earliest piece for cello and ensemble 'Zona', he uses the a kind of Chaconne technique of continual variations. Thus the movements have sections that have the same basic harmonic structure and, like in a kaleidoscope, the pieces are shuffled a little and the picture looks suddenly very different.

The longer the piece progresses, the more archetypical it becomes, the improvised cadenza acts as a bridge, it changes the music which has been very active and multi-layered into very clear shapes and classical, even romantic gestures. There are moments of melodic invention and calm which are rare in Lindbergs music.

By the end of the piece, the Concerto has gone through many transformations, it has been at times 'chamber music', 'sinfonia concertante', dialogue between cello and orchestra and ends up as a great romantic concerto.

Anssi Karttunen 26.4.2001

About the cello concerto and its form
(introduction for the first finnish performance)

There is far more to composition than a metaphysical process of creation. Performers often tend to stress the mystical dimension of music, the theorists the bones. We all build a certain amount of mystery into the listening experience, so let us take a peep behind the musical scenes. To the kitchen, as it were.

The violin Concerto by Brahms was premiered on 1st of January 1879. Brahms met Joseph Joachim in the August of the previous year to discuss the practicability of some of his ideas. In September they met again, and in November Brahms wrote to Joachim to tell that he was replacing the two central movements with a new Adagio. In mid-December Brahms still did not know whether he would have the concerto ready in time. On 17th December he wrote to Joachim saying that he felt the premiere was a risk that could be taken because Joachim was for the most part already familiar with the solo part and the remaining details would not matter so much at the first performance. Naturally, the composer entrusted the soloist with the job of writing a cadenza. This all is almost identical to Magnus's Concerto, even the cadenza was again left to the soloists (in-) discretion.

In January Brahms and Joachim toured with the Concerto and they remained in close contact throughout the spring and summer1879 revising and improving the piece before it went to the printers.

It is difficult to say just when Magnus finished his cello concerto. Was it Thursday 15 April, when he called me in Reykjavik to announce the completion of the piece? Was it the following Monday, the absolute deadline for sending the score to the editor, a week later, when we finished writing the dynamics in the solo part, or 4 May in Paris two days before the first performance, when we revised the orchestra parts with the librarian of Orchestre de Paris? Is a piece of music ever truly finished? Should it be, in fact? Is the performance the completed form of the work?

Schumann composed and orchestrated his cello concerto in the space of two weeks in October 1850, at the age of forty. He was just about to start making a clean copy of his third symphony. He did not have any special cellist for whom to compose the concerto; he just felt the need to write one - luckily for us. He never even heard his concerto, it was not performed until ten years later, well after he had already passed away. No one felt any need to hear it.

With any luck I will be performing Magnus's concerto about ten times this year; he (and I) is more fortunate than Schumann. Even today people often are not always interested in a performance of a new piece; they often prefer just to be present at the premiere.

The composers of cello concertos, and especially their colleagues, are often worried about whether the soloist will be heard. The cello has a wider range than most other instruments, but the most commonly used part of it falls precisely in the zone where a large part of the orchestra also earns their living. And thus it was, that when I last performed the Schumann concerto at Finlandia Hall (too many years ago), my friends admitted not to have heard one squeak of what I was playing. I do, however, rather suspect that the responsibility for this lies more with Alvar Aalto, the architect, than with Schumann, or so my friends kindly assured me. At the premiere of Magnus's concerto in Paris I was assured that even according to the most conservative estimates, at least 20 per cent of the solo part could be heard, despite the acoustics; I can't remember the architect's name. I am not worried about this concerto either.

Vivaldi wrote 27 cello concertos, Boccherini 12, Haydn about two. The present concerto by Magnus, written at the age of forty (like Schumann), is in fact his fourth for cello. The first was Zona for cello and small ensemble in 1983. Kraft and Duo Concertante followed. I will always remember arriving about a month before the premiere of Zona at my studio in Paris at the Cite des Arts, which Magnus had borrowed while I was in Helsinki having just met the woman who is now my wife. On the table was the finished score in a neat pile. Magnus himself had just gone off to Berlin. Never before - or since - was my studio so tidy. In those days we used to cut and paste the solo part with scissors and glue from the score and the first week was spent doing that. I have later also written it out by hand once and later still edited a clean version done with computer. Six years after Zona was written Magnus and I were sitting on a park bench revising it and since then this "difficult" piece has been called, somewhat worryingly, "audience-friendly". Is "audience-friendly" a form?

This time it is I who borrowed Magnus's studio in Helsinki in order to practice the concerto. On the table are quite a few different versions of cello parts; the latest, stained with correcting fluid, is in my cello case. This study nevertheless stayed quite tidy, too.

The same cannot necessarily be said of the room where Magnus this spring composed not only the cello concerto but also the big orchestra piece Cantigas. Glued to the wall are all the earlier cello parts: Stroke, Moto, Duo Concertante... On the floor are stacks and stacks of versions of the concerto at different stages, the kitchen is littered with a mound of empty instant espresso bags, energy drink cans, vitamin pill jars... For a long time I was puzzled why I associated a whiff of cigar with practising the concerto, until I realised it came from the paper on which the part and score were printed; it had absorbed the smell from Magnus's study.

I've always claimed that in working with composers I confine my comments strictly to ones of a technical nature, but I now realise that it is not true. It is impossible to make a comment that does not also affect the music. This realisation gave me a bad conscience. But the process of composition is such a mammoth maze of decisions that in making them these "innocent" questions by the performer on some "practical" considerations may possibly make the composer's life just a tad easier.

When analysing compositions, people tend to force them into various moulds, styles and genres. Is there such a form as "Self-cleaning"?

Anssi Karttunen, Helsinki, 17 may 1999


What the press wrote:







reviews french






























Reviews of the SONY Classical CD:
International Record Review, June 2002

"The Cello Concerto might be thought a concerto "malgré lui". For much of its span, the soloist fulfils more of a concertante role - sendin out fragmentary melidoc lines which the orchestradraw into an ever-denser sonic canvas. The cadenza, its virtuosity offset by disembodied harmonics, ushers in some of Lindberg's most sustained lyrical writing, before chrystallizing into the soloist's final gesture. An intriguing work, given a performance of unassuming mastery by Anssi Karttunen.

Performances are as fully attuned to Lindberg's idiom as might be expected with long-time champion Salonen at the helm. The recorded balance enebles one to savour the music's often myriad detail in a believable perspective... Make no mistake, there will be few discs to rival this in all-round quality this year."

Graham Simpson

Gramophone, June 2002
"If the Cello Concerto makes more sense, that isn't because its idiom is less advanced (rather the reversa is true) but because there is a central protagonist whose progress we can follow. And Lindberg provides Anssi Karttune n with some fantastical technical challenges along the way. One could not describe the results as emotionally compelling. Rather, they constitute an unmissable show.

Did I mention the brilliant performances and top-notch recorded sound? "

David Gutman

Financial Times; Feb 16, 2002
For daily readers of this newspaper, I apologise for repeating myself. Lindberg is my theme again. Among "specialist" audiences his reputation has grown steadily through his prolific, constantly interesting and adventurous music, from his 1985 Kraft onwards....

The Cello Concerto is something else again: half the fun depends on showing how marvellously and musically Anssi Kartunen - another close friend - can execute unheard-of feats on the cello, and half on the brilliantly interlocked byplay between soloist and orchestra, with any amount of sharp, nervy "expression". ("Expression" is, I think, something that Lindberg still prefers to hold at a cautious and probably ironical distance.)

David Murray

The Strad, June 2002
"Lindberg solves the balance problem of cello concertos with a small ensemble which he makes seem larger than it really is. (aided by a transparent and spacious recording). The members of the Philharmonia Orchestra whirl hyperactive figurations around Anssi Karttunen's lyrical strain, until the solo part becomes caught in a moto perpetuo. Maracas signal a crisis about halfway through, to which the cellist responds with a cadenza which could not have been written without the example of the Lutoslawski Concerto. Lindberg's real originality is reasserted by the work's continuing search for a tonal centre: just as in Parada its eventual attainment brings a caoda of reflective beauty.

The music seems to belong to Karttunen and Salonen as much as it does to Lindberg, so confidently do they bring its moods to life. Given that the three have been friends and collaborators for years, these can be regarded as definitive performances, worth repeated listening."

Peter Quantell

BBC Music Magazine, June 2002
"The Cello Concerto, with Anssi Karttunen the excellent soloist, is another radical solution to the age-old challenges thrown up by this particular genre.

No conductor is more sympathetically attuned to Lindberg's sound-world than Salonen, the composers friend from student years. The performances he draws from The Philharmonia are outstanding in every respect."

Performance ***** Sound*****

Barry Millington

Reviews of performances around the world:

Lindberg Pinch-Hits for Kirchner in Phil's Lineup

 This little bit of "Related Rocks," as the London Lindberg festival was called, in Los Angeles also included the 43-year-old composer's Cello Concerto, which the Philharmonic performed at the Ojai Festival three years ago. It was written for Anssi Karttunen, another close friend of Salonen and Lindberg, and he was again the soloist here.

The concerto, somewhat revised last year, also plays around with gravity and anti-gravity. On the most basic level, it is music that seems humanly impossible to play, and it can be enjoyed for the simple amazement of watching the cellist, one of the world's great players, skate through contorted figurations with elegant ease.

But the concerto is also a magnificent coming-of-age drama. At first, the hyperactive, stuttering, chattering cello acts like a young teenager, full of mischief. As it tries to define itself, its every gesture is a different and elaborate breakout attempt that gets stuck on the same few pitches. Slowly, it develops a voice and personality, as it keeps getting submerged in the orchestra and finding new ways of asserting itself. The cadenza, which Karttunen improvised brilliantly, is its bursting onto the scene, and the music that follows is beautiful, long-limbed, assured, powerful, the voice of liberation.

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2002

Classical philharmonia orchestra / salonen south bank centre london

This symphony's recourse to a solo cello as a point of reference made an apt link with Lindberg's Cello Concerto of 1999, the London premiere of which immediately preceded it; Anssi Karttunen, the work's dedicatee, was its brilliant and engaging soloist. The composer offers a fresh approach to the inherent drama of the concerto form, especially in the second part of this continuous, 25-minute single movement following the astonishing cadenza, when structural tension as well as an ardent and recurring lyricism expire in a solo of movingly tragic import. Lindberg may be famous for speed and brilliance, but here showed that he is capable of writing slow music of real power and individuality.

Neither of the other two London premieres - Parada (2001) and Chorale in the Royal Festival Hall - match the Cello Concerto in substance, though both also demonstrate Lindberg's present concern with finding new ways of integrating slow music into his typically fast and dynamic style.

Keith Potter, The Independent , Feb 21, 2002

No rain on this Parada

The South Bank's Lindberg festival is aurally abundant, says Paul Driver

... At the other end of his linguistic scale is the dense 1999 Cello Concerto, a big, refractory, glintingly impassioned work whose London premiere at the QEH benefited from the amazing Anssi Karttunen, a soloist who could persuade anyone of anything. Aura (1994), however, the still bigger, quasi- symphonic work in four (relentlessly) continuous movements that formed the festival's grand finale, was seductiveness itself. Beginning in the lowest depths, ending 40 minutes later with a passage of startling auroral radiance for high-lying strings that unmistakably invokes Sibelius's Tapiola (as though Lindberg had won the right to his patrimony), this masterpiece of inventiveness carried all before it.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times 17.2.2002

Lindberg festival

Related Rocks, the Philharmonia's series built around the music of Magnus Lindberg that halted in mid-stream in December, returned for two more programmes containing three London premieres. The whole celebration ended with a performance conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen of what is arguably Lindberg's finest work to date, the awe-inspiring Aura, which was completed in 1994 and has been heard in London only once before. But the quality of the new pieces suggested that Lindberg is likely to equal, if not surpass, the achievement of Aura, sooner rather than later.

The Cello Concerto, finished three years ago, is quite different. It is a 25-minute single movement that builds in a totally coherent, organic way. The solo writing is fiendish - it was written for Anssi Karttunen, who played it superbly here. Everything builds towards a big cadenza (unusually these days, left to the soloist's own invention), which discharges most of the tension and allows the work to end almost elegiacally. The pacing is faultless.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 12.2.2002

Philharmonia conducted by Salonen at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

...Meanwhile, the second instalment of Related Rocks, the South Bank's festival featuring the music of Magnus Lindberg, focused on works teeming with content. The Cello Concerto, completed in 1999 and revised last year, impressed particularly through the discretion of its scoring. While in other works there is sometimes a sense that Lindberg is daubing too much bright, prime colouring on his musical canvases, here the effect was more subtle.

The concerto is a typically active piece, with an exacting solo part played with commanding power and agility by the dedicatee, Anssi Karttunen. But it also explores darker realms of expression that make it more fascinating to contemplate than some of Lindberg's more full-frontal works.

Geoffrey Norris , Sunday Telegraph, 12.2.2002

First night

And his Cello Concerto, written in 1999 and receiving its British premiere with the mesmerising Anssi Karttunen as soloist, also adds up to less than the sum of its frenetic surface effects. It is skilfully scored and starts promisingly, with the cellist leading the orchestra into increasingly complex territory, like an avant-garde Pied Piper. There is much to intrigue, too, in the soloist's unaccompanied cadenza, which demands hair-raising virtuosity. Yet the piece seems emotionally sterile &emdash; a worthy technical exercise rather than a song from the heart.

Richard Morrison, The Times, 9.2.2002

Fine finale to a magic series

The Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg has been extensively celebrated in Paris, Brussels and London since last November: all major works repeated in each capital, and sometimes in outlying towns with everything major and minor played by first-class musicians. It has been an unprecedented festival.

One of the new-to-London works was Lindberg's recent Cello Concerto for the tireless virtuoso Anssi Karttunen (can anybody else actually play it?), in which perpetual interplay and echoing between soloist and orchestra form the main burden.

David Murray, Financial Times, 13.2.2002

Magnus Lindberg's Cello Concerto

There was also a world premiere last week, of Magnus Lindberg's Cello Concerto - commissioned by the Orchestre de Paris with Rostropovich as prospective soloist, but Lindberg decided to write it for Karttunen instead. Reasonably enough, since Karttunen is not only a close colleague, but an ultramodern world-class virtuoso. Where soloists are concerned, Lindberg revels in far-out virtuosity.

David Murray, Financial Times 12.5.1999

Ojai: Performances at festival both virtuosic and playful

Lindberg's Cello Concerto, which had just been given its world premiere by Salonen and the Toimii cellist Anssi Karttunen in Paris three weeks ago was on the program in Libbey Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and it was more virtuosic still. I don't know that a concerto has ever required a cellist to leap about with such agility as Lindberg's new piece does, and I have never heard a cellist play with a touch as light as Karttunen's. He seems to skim on the strings with bow and fingers as if this were music as sleight of hand, meant to amaze. Other Finnish contributions to the festival included Kaija Saariaho's wondrously sonorous "Amers" for cello and ensemble (Karttunen again was the unbelievable soloist).

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times 7.6.1999

Helsingin Sanomat, the leading Finnish newspaper reviewed three of the early performances:
8.5.1999 First performance

Lindberg's Concerto is a phenomenal new work. It shows once again Lindberg's intelligent and strong composership and his logical stylistic development. The music has many familiar elements, hedonic sound and harmony; well crafted and colourful orchestral processes, some machinelike moments.

New in the concerto is the even richer, sometimes even overpowering orchestral palet, the use of orchestra as choires formed by one or more sections. Striking is also the prosaism, which does not point with a finger, but gives a meaningful experience of form.

Maybe the most exciting aspect is the refined and well differentiated lyricism and melodism, which appears at the psychologically right moment in the second half of the piece, just when ones expectations demand it to be born...

Anssi Karttunen took care of the solopart in an exact and refined manner, in the first half like a virtuoso and like a poet at the sensitive ending...

Veijo Murtomäki

29.6.1999 St. Petersburg White Nights Festival

... I did not feel this time the storm so typical to Lindberg, the fever and urban heroism. The Cello Concerto is the most lyrical and maybe even introverted Lindberg.

... All the more impressive in to enjoy ment of the piece is the calming down of the ending is this piece, which is divided into five large sections. At last the cello takes the role of a traditional soloist, and Anssi Karttunen can improvise a cadenza, which has an extremely beautiful sound world.

Karttunen often plays modern music which demands him to draw multitudes of screeches and screams. This time also, although towards the end of the piece he can show his talent as the interpreter of long, singing lines...

Vesa Siren

3.7.1999 Avanti! Festival, Porvoo Finland

Among the surrounding Slavic music Magnus Lindberg's Cello Concerto was like a porcelain-maker at a country fair. The Concerto does not lack in juiciness, but the dramaturgy of the concerto grows from the rich filgranic work, which the cello engages in, in the arms of the sensually energetic orchestra.

Anssi Karttunen played the cello with stunning virtuosity. It was the Avanti!-spirit in a nutshell: the listener doesn't need to "understand" modern music, it is enough, that the interpreter does and lives it so powerfully, the listener need not think about understanding.

Jukka Isopuro