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Britta Byström

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Invisible Cities (2013),
Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Year Composed
22 Minutes
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Programme Note
Britta Byström Invisible Cities (2013),
Invisible Cities is an orchestral piece inspired by the Italian writer Italo Calvino's novel 'Le città invisible' (1972). The novel consists of many short, poetical descriptions of wondrous cities. This is what the explorer Marco Polo reports to Kublai Khan of what he has seen during his travels. Gradually, though, Kublai Khan begins to suspect that Marco Polo all the time describes one and the same city, but in many different ways: Marco Polo's own hometown Venice.

This was also my musical idea: to present the same motif in many different ways. The piece has eleven movements, just as the novel consists of eleven different kinds of cities. Before every new musical "city", there is a "walk" – a little piano line which takes the listener from one city to another. This piano line is a quotation from Witold Lutoslawski's Venetian Games. There are also other music connected to Venice hidden in my piece: the well-known Barcarolle by Offenbach and some fragments from Carnival in Venice. These references are the "invisible cities" of my piece, the material hidden under the music's surface. Marco Polo explains to Kublai Khan: "To distinguish the other cities' qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit. For me it is Venice."

(c) Britta Byström

  • Ensemble
    Malmö Symphony Orchestra
    Daniel Blendulf
...a magical score, often light in texture and shimmering like the ever-present water in Venice. Quite often I hear dripping water in this piece. It's fascinating and highly accessible and should win many new admirers for Britta Byström’s music.
Göran Forsling, Musicweb International,01/01/2015
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