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Magnus Lindberg

Publisher: Chester Music

Aura (In memoriam Witold Lutoslawski) (1994)
commissioned by the Suntory International Program for Music Composition
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
40 Minutes
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Programme Note
Magnus Lindberg Aura (In memoriam Witold Lutoslawski) (1994)
My first orchestral piece written in 1980-81 entitled Sculpture II was a monstrous attempt to make a dense orchestral texture demanding two conductors in order to be performed. The project was originally meant to be in three movements (Trois sculptures), but due to the complexity I was only able to fulfil the middle part of the piece.

The next time I returned to the symphony orchestra was in 1983, when I started to work on Kraft, completed in 1985. I was still obsessed by the large apparatus of the late romantics (Mahler, R.Strauss etc.), and wanted even more. I included six soloists and live electronics in order to be able to control the whole space. The traditional orchestra was also enlarged by using a wide setup of non-traditional percussion instruments mainly picked up from scrap yards.

From 1989-91 I wrote three pieces Kinetics-Marea-Joy all reflecting a different view to the orchestra. Kinetics, written for full size symphony orchestra, was for me a new approach to the orchestra. In Sculpture and Kraft I was organising the music in terms of mass qualities and percussive sound formations, but in Kinetics I wanted to find a harmonic language that would be more sonorous and where the use of the orchestral timbres would be more directly related to harmony. Marea was an approach to the classical orchestra of the Mozart-Beethoven era. I grew more and more interested in the clarity of texture. In Joy the challenge was to simulate a full orchestral body, with only 23 players and live electronics. The next piece written for orchestra was Corrente II from 1992 in which I wanted to use a wider span of moving from chamber music constellations to full orchestral tuttis making the texture out of continuous motion.

Aura is in many ways the synthesis of the different approaches I have had to the orchestra in my earlier works. Evidently when working on a large scale work one is more concerned with formal problems. The architectonical large form and the balance between material and form become much more important to control.

One of the composers of our century who has renewed the relation between form and content is Witold Lutoslawski. His idea of a two part form with a presentation of a material and its qualities without any directional tendencies in the first movement, continued by a second movement where the material grows to an entity, is a genuine and clear approach to form today.

I believe the overall form of Aura would make it appropriate to call the piece a symphony. Still it is not a symphony. The piece could more easily be called a concerto for an orchestra, yet it isn't that either. Instruments and instrumental groups are often treated in a very virtuosic way, but this is more the result of a certain treatment of the material than an instrumental approach.

The large form is divided into four movements which are played without interruptions. The first movement could in itself be an autonomous piece. It is rich in material and is grouped in alternating tutti-sections and groups of instruments treated as soloists. The second movement starts with an archaic choral-like passage for the brass instruments which gradually transforms into quite harsh chord formations. This material is alternated with an ornamental texture reflecting a different view of the same harmonic material. The strong textural conflict is gradually melted together into one long process, where the characteristics of the material gradually disappear - very much in the way Beethoven organised his development sections, by literally destroying all qualities of his material.

The third movement is a collection of oddly behaving machine-like ostinati, kept together by an endless, almost perpetuum mobile-like motion. This material is kaleidoscopic, with a direction moving as a meander in all different directions.

The last movement finally gives this endless motion a direction, and the music evolves from quite minimalistic background patterns to a toccata-like texture, not too distant from some solutions found in Prokofiev's late piano sonatas. These culminations build up to a hectic passage, evidently reminiscent of some solutions by Stravinsky or Scriabin, a polyrhythmic march which acts like a strong magnet in picking up all kinds of material presented earlier in the work.

The epilogue is an intense choral in high strings, based around one of the important idea of the piece: major thirds doubled in many octaves simultaneously.

During my work on this piece, the news of the death of Witold Lutoslawski reached me. I wanted to contribute somehow to his memory and felt that the least I could do was to dedicate Aura to the memory of this great composer.

  • Ensemble
    London Sinfonietta / BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Oliver Knussen
    Deutsche Grammophon:
Best of all was Lindberg's Aura. Dating from 1993-4 and almost 40 minutes long, this work's fusion of brilliant, concerto-for-orchestra-style spotlighting of every corner of the orchestra and genuinely symphonic drama is surely the best thing its composer has done. A vividly virtuosic account of it brought Related Rocks to a conlcusion on an appropriately high note.
Keith Potter, The Independent,21/02/2002
"This London premiere of Aura confirmed the brilliance of imagination, virtuosity of orchestration and increasing audacity and authority of this formidable 40-year-old… the opening quickening of sound from a dark de profundis…has an iridescent beauty and gripping sense of drama"
Hilary Finch, The Times,27/07/1999
…finely tuned ear and unerring feeling for colour, harmony and dramatic shape…"
Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times,18/06/1995
"…a brilliant brew, which is exhausting and invigorating in equal measure."
Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph,17/06/1995
"Lindberg's fabulously rich score works almost like a piece of weaving, its lines threading back and forth across the stage, its textures pulling together or torn apart by malevolent brass mutterings. At moments the orchestra seemed about to gallop out of control, only to subside into a harsh whisper before finally finding serenity. Lindberg was called to the stage three times to acknowledge the applause. Who says new pieces never get audiences excited?"
Nick Kimberley, Independent,13/06/1995
“…a richly envisaged spectacle in sound that combines glamour with substance and maintains its impact over a long duration. When it finished, the look of sublime exhaustion on the faces of the audience suggested we’d all been through a night of heavy but extremely satisfying sex.”
Michael White, The Independent on Sunday,01/06/1995
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