About this Piece
Length: 23 minutes
Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = piccolo), alto flute, 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets (3rd = bass clarinet), bass clarinet, 3 bassoons (3rd = contrabassoon), contrabassoon, 6 horns (5th and 6th = Wagner tubas), 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 tubas, timpani, percussion (bass drum, bell tree, bongos, Chinese cymbals, crotales, marimba, mark tree, nipple gong, spring coil, suspended cymbals, tam-tam, temple blocks, tenor drum, tom-toms, triangle, vibraphone), 2 pianos (2nd = organ), 2 harps, and strings (no violins)
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (world premiere, co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation)
Sculpture is written to celebrate Walt Disney Concert Hall and its architecture. Frank Gehry's work made a profound impression on Magnus Lindberg when he attended the inaugural concerts of the Hall in 2003. The title suggests Frank Gehry's architecture, but it also has a reference to Lindberg's early orchestral achievement, titled Sculpture II (1981). Lindberg said that his intention was to write a triptych - like Debussy's Three Nocturnes - exploiting the same rhythmic structure, with the first section to be composed in the high register and the third in the low register.
Sculpture does not have musical connections to the 1981 piece, but it fullfills one criteria of its planned third section: It is written for an orchestra without violins. This leads the composer to make use of the low register, and therefore of a dark sound world. Stravinsky's scores are Lindberg's bedtime reading, and the Symphony of Psalms may have been one model for the instrumentation. Like his predecessor, Lindberg gives an important role to the pianos, harps, bass clarinets, and contrabassoons, all used in pairs.
Moving down towards the lower register is a trend to be seen in Lindberg's recent output. This has an effect on the harmonic character of the music as it is in the low sounds that the tonal base dwells. Most avantgardists from the 1950s on, wanting to avoid tonality, have stayed in the mid and high register and therefore their sound world is sometimes rather limited (although the music often has other values).
In Sculpture Lindberg introduces sustained pedal-like bass notes. D-flat is the most common tonality, often in alternation with E-flat. Although we do not hear tonal chords in the classical sense of the word, over a D-flat bass Lindberg builds a C-related chord. This harmonic structure is the basis upon which he introduces a recurring signaling fanfare which has been heard already in the introductory movement in different guises. Very often this Berliozian idée fixe is heard on the trumpet. Lindberg says the opening motif of Varèse's Amériques is a distant source of inspiration. From Varèse we can trace the music's historical line down to the opening measures of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
Although it is in one movement, Sculpture falls into four sections. The first introduces the musical material, the building blocks out of which the sculpture is molded. The material is divided into two categories. The first is static and preparatory (on D-flat); the second is goal-oriented and active (on E-flat). The music goes through a constant change of tempos due to a tempo modulation structure.
The second section is a kind of slow movement, but Lindberg never totally gives up fast-moving textures. Here the psychological effect is as if time would be suspended in pendulum movement. This leads into the third section, which Lindberg calls Chamber Music. The virtuosic elements come to the front in solos, duos, and different combinations of instruments.
The final section is a machine-like, straightforward movement that has a clear sense of direction. While composing Sculpture, Lindberg spent a few months rehearsing Stravinsky's Noces, both as a piano soloist and conductor, and the rhythmic structure here may recall something of Stravinsky. The basic material returns, and after a visit to the second section's processive atmosphere, the music spreads out in space. D-flat finally merges into the C tonality and the tension is dissolved. A short coda gives the final balancing touch to the sculpture. Time has become space.
- Risto Nieminen, 2005