Magnus Lindberg studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with Einojuhani Rautavaaraand Paavo Heininen. His first piece performed by a professional orchestra was Sculpture II” (1982) but the first work to garner substantial acclaim was Action-Situation-Signification(1982), in which he started to explore musique concrète. This piece was written for and premiered by the new-music ensemble Toimii (Finnish for "It Works"). Around this time he also co-founded the ‘Ears Open’ Society with colleagues including Esa-Pekka Salonen and Kaija Saariaho; a society dedicated to the exploration of the European avant-garde.
In 1983-85 he wrote a monumental piece for Toimii: Kraft,which has been performed around the globe. It includes chords with more than 70 notes and a meter-high score. It uses traditional instrumentation as well as percussion on scrap metal and spoken word. In the 1990s, Lindberg became increasingly concerned with harmonic structure, and a broad range of styles including minimalism, free jazz and rock became evident in his work. At the same time, he has been increasingly drawn towards large-scale forms, describing the orchestra as his ‘favourite instrument’.
Critical Acclaim...One seriously begins to wonder if he is not the most gifted composer of his generation... dazzling: chiselled writing with irresistible life and impetuosity, absolute mastery of form and duration. - Jacques-Emmanuel Fousnaque, Le Monde
...the brilliance of imagination, virtuosity of orchestration and increasing audacity and authority of this formidable [composer.] - Hilary Finch, The Times
...Magnus Lindberg is a sparkling person whocomposes sparkling music – JuhaniNuorvala & Kimmo Korhonen, Music Finland
Kraft (1983-85), in essence a concerto for the members of Toimii and orchestra, sees the distillation of these experiments and together with Ur (1986) shows Lindberg exploring further the processing of conventional sound with electronic devices. In the 1990s, pieces such as Marea (1990), the Piano Concerto (1990-94), Corrente (1992), Corrente II (1992) and Coyote Blues (1993) have been less concerned with the use of electronics (although the composer still uses computers as a compositional aid) and show Lindberg putting a stronger emphasis on the harmonic structure of his music. June 1994 saw the triumphant premiere in Tokyo of the major new orchestral work Aura - in memoriam Witold Lutoslawski , a commission from the Suntory International Program for Music Composition, and in June 1995 his Arena was the test piece for the first International Sibelius Conductor's Competition in Helsinki.
In 1995 he was the featured composer at the Aldeburgh Festival and in 1996 he was Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre's Meltdown Festival. In 1997 he was featured at the Ars Musica Festival in Brussels and the Strasbourg Musica Festival where his two largest works Kraft and Aura received their French Premieres. Recent works include Engine (1996), a commission from the London Sinfonietta, Arena II (1996) for sinfonietta, and Related Rocks (1997), an IRCAM commission for electronics, 2 pianos and percussion.
Among the many prizes his music has won are the Prix Italia (1986), the UNESCO Rostrum (1986), the Nordic Music Prize (1988) and the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize for large-scale composition (1992).
Magnus Lindberg's music is available on the Finlandia, Ondine and Adès labels.