• Born 1954
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Hailed as Sweden’s greatest living composer, Anders Hillborg is a versatile artist whose career is truly international. His work has been commissioned by some of the most prestigious ensembles and artists.
Anders Hillborg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on 31 May 1954. He began his musical life in choirs and experimenting with improvisation. His more serious studies took place from 1976-1982 at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm. There he studied with, among others, Gunnar Bucht, Lars-Erik Rosell, and Pär Lindgren. Another inspiration at the time was frequent guest lecturer Brian Ferneyhough.
While he has been a teacher at the Malmö College of Music and has presented master classes, since 1982 Hillborg’s career has been almost entirely as an active composer. He has been performed or commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the BBC Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and many others.
Hillborg’s music spans just about every style and arrangement. He has numerous orchestral works and choral works. He also has over three-dozen chamber works and several concertos, including many for clarinet. His work has been heard in film and television.
The clarinet is an important instrument for Hillborg. He has used it in many works to utilize its colour and versatility.Peacock Tales was written in 1998 over three months. He planned for it to be a fifteen-minute piece, but it grew to over thirty-five minutes, using the solo clarinet, large orchestra, and mime, dance, and lighting. The mime and dance were suggested by the renowned Swedish clarinettistMartin Fröst, who would premiere the piece. The piece opens with soft, solo clarinet until the strings join leading to an explosion of sound in the clarinet part. The composer describes the rest of the piece as a ‘journey’ and at each ‘station’ the clarinet may appear masked or unmasked. Peacock Taleswas premiered by Fröst and the Swedish Radio Orchestra in 1998.
Eleven Gates was composed from 2005-2006 as a commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. It is scored for a large orchestra. The piece is, as one would expect, in eleven movements, each only around two minutes long. The movements have surreal titles like the first, ‘Drifting into D-major’, or the fourth, ‘Suddenly in the Room with Floating Mirrors’. Each of the movements shares its theme before moving aside for the next. While it may not seem apparent to the listener, the piece is incredibly difficult technically.
King Tide was commissioned by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and composed in 1999. It is for strings, brass, and a large wind section, but no percussion, not a standard trait of modern music. The piece uses sustained tones through out, rising and falling. It is meant, according to the composer, to represent the tide after which it is named, the king tide or highest tide.
Anders Hillborg is developing a legacy that is evolving as modern music evolves with it. Some of his music has been deemed ‘unplayable’. That was how his choral piecemuo:aa:yiy::oum was received when first studied by the commissioning ensemble. Now the work is among the standard repertoire. His work has been fêted multiple times at the Composer’s Festival in Stockholm. His music is performed frequently throughout the year by all levels of performers. He has received awards throughout the years including a Swedish Grammy for composer of the year and the 1991 Christ Johnson Music Prize, plus twice selected by UNESCO for their Composer’s Rostrum.
Header image courtesy of Edition Peters Other images courtesy of Discogs and Edition Peters