Magnus Lindberg was born in Helsinki, Finland. Following piano studies, he entered the Sibelius Academy, where his composition teachers included Einojuhani Rautavaara and Paavo Heininen. The latter encouraged his pupils to look beyond the prevailing Finnish conservative and nationalist aesthetics, and to explore the works of the European avant-garde. In 1980 Mr. Lindberg became part of the informal group known as the Ears Open Society, which also included his contemporaries Eero Hämeeniemi, Jouni Kaipainen, Kaija Saariaho, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and which sought to encourage a greater awareness of mainstream modernism. In 1981 Mr. Lindberg traveled to Paris for studies with Vinko Globokar and Gérard Grisey and attended Franco Donatoni's classes in Siena, Italy. Also in the 1980s he was in contact with Brian Ferneyhough, Helmut Lachenmann, and Karl Höller.
Mr. Lindberg's compositional breakthrough came with two large-scale works, Action-Situation-Signification (1982) and Kraft (1983–85), which were inextricably linked with his co-founding, with Mr. Salonen, of the experimental Toimii Ensemble. This group — in which Mr. Lindberg plays piano and percussion — provided the composer with a laboratory for his sonic development. His compositions of the early 1980s combined experimentalism, complexity, and primitivism, working with extremes of musical material. Toward the end of that decade, his compositional style transformed, moving toward a new modernist classicism, in which many of the communicative ingredients of a vibrant musical language (harmony, rhythm, counterpoint, and melody) were reinterpreted afresh for the post-serial era. Key scores in this stylistic evolution were the orchestral/ensemble triptych Kinetics (1988), Marea (1989–90), and Joy (1989–90), reaching fulfillment in Aura (1993–94) and Arena (1994–95).
Over the past decade Magnus Lindberg's output has positioned him at the forefront of orchestral composition, including the concert opener Feria (1997), which was given its U.S. Premiere by the New York Philharmonic on October 23, 1997, led by Jukka-Pekka Saraste; large-scale statements such as Fresco (1997), Cantigas (1999), Concerto for Orchestra (2002–03), and Sculpture (2005); and concertos for cello (1999), clarinet (2002), and violin (2006). Recent works include Seht die Sonne (2007), commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic, under Sir Simon Rattle, and the San Francisco Symphony, in addition to his New York Philharmonic commissions.
Mr. Lindberg's music has been recorded on the Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, Ondine, and Finlandia labels and is published by Boosey & Hawkes. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the UNESCO International Rostrums (1982 and 1986), Nordic Council Music Prize (1988), Koussevitsky Prize (1988), Prix Italia (1986), Royal Philharmonic Society (1993), First European Composer Prize of the “young.euro.classic — Musik Sommer Berlin 2000” (which he shared), and the Wihuri Sibelius Prize (2003).
Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg's position as The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic has been extended for a third season. As such, he will write music for the Philharmonic and serve in a curatorial role for CONTACT!, the Orchestra's new-music series.
In the 2010–11 season, the Orchestra performed Mr. Lindberg's groundbreaking, theatrical Kraft, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert.
The work, premiered in 1985, employs a mammoth orchestra, unusual instruments, soloists, and groups of musicians who move around the hall; the performances marked Mr. Lindberg's piano debut with the Philharmonic as well as the work's New York Premiere. In November 2010 the Philharmonic performed the World Premiere–New York Philharmonic Commission of Mr. Lindberg's Souvenir (in memoriam Gérard Grisey), which was paired with a work by the late Gérard Grisey — one of Mr. Lindberg's teachers — on the first of the season's two CONTACT! programs.
In the 2009–10 season the Orchestra performed two World Premiere–New York Philharmonic Commissions by Mr. Lindberg. The first, EXPO, opened the Philharmonic's 168th season and was repeated in subscription concerts, on the Asian Horizons tour in October 2009, and on the Europe / Winter 2010 tour in January–February 2010. The other was Al largo, which closed the subscription season in June 2010. The Orchestra also performed the U.S. premiere of Mr. Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto — in Carnegie Hall — written for and performed by Finnish clarinetist Kari Kriikku, and his 1995 work, Arena. An excerpt from Feria was the centerpiece of the Philharmonic's Young People's Concert in March 2010.