" Shadow of Future (2019) "
Ed. Boosey & Hawkes
- Nominated for : The Musical Composition Prize 2021
Magnus Lindberg takes his title from Edith Södergran (1892–1923), a Finn, like himself, of Swedish family and language. Among the pioneers of modernist free verse in Swedish, Södergran wrote from an “I” that seems very immediate to herself. Her Shadow of the Future, from during or soon after the First World War, begins: “I sense death’s shadow.” After six lines speaking of fate and foreboding, however, the poem in its shorter second part turns to the light: “The future casts on me its holy shadow, which is nothing other than the flowing sun.” Her health declining, the poet foresees a time beyond her death, a time by which she is nevertheless illuminated.
It was this assurance of life amid death that drew Lindberg to Södergran for the first time last year in answering a commission for a work to mark the centenary of the armistice that ended the 1914–18 conflict: Triumph to Exist, also based on a wartime poem. “Her universe continues to inhabit me,” he has said. “When I think of the world as it is today, and of all the shadows that darken our future, this optimism seems to me something we have to hold on to.” Hence the glow and the bound of Shadow of the Future, which he began composing for the Ensemble intercontemporain right after the armistice piece.
The new work is strongly, even emphatically thematic, based on a theme in two segments presented right away by the brass in the opening bars: first comes a march down a fourth in steps of a major second and a minor third, and then, from this, a rise that is more variable but will often go scale-wise and end with a fall back. Big music is already implied, and the promise is fulfilled. As the material is developed, so attention swings from one instrumental family to another, the percussive group—piano, harp and two percussionists at this point on vibraphone and marimba—adding an exotic touch.
After three minutes or so, the 17-minute piece moves into the second of its four parts, with airy woodwinds slowly pushing up through whole tones. Horns restore the main theme, and activity increases, to a point where the third part begins. This features majestic chords such as these musicians rarely get to play together, but ends with an oboe duet featuring a quick circling figure that was heard in the first part. Similar darting figures take over the whole ensemble to begin the final part, in the initial stages of which the brass players are silent. Returning, they are at first muted, but soon bring reminders of the theme. This comes to an apotheosis, amid fanfaring chords from the third part and more dancing figures. The re-arrival of the upward whole tones moves the work into its coda.
(© Boosey & Hawkes)