Christian Lindberg (born 1958) is a Swedish trombone virtuoso. Lindberg has premiered over 200 works, including over 70 new concerti. His performances are characterised as having “a charismatic intensity of delivery”. He is best known for his performance of avant-garde and other theatrical works, achieving a marvellous audience rapport. He has developed his tone in the German tradition of a thick, warm sound, often with a fast vibrato.
(This interview was conducted in October 2010)
What is the current setup that you use? What did you previously use?
Between 1989 and 2000, I had the privilege of developing a totally new CONN88 and new mouthpieces together with CONN/SELMER (now owned by Steinway). The result was an instrument called the CONN88SGXCL with CL2000 Rotor system.
The mouthpiece I currently use is a Christian Lindberg mouthpiece model 4CL.
Do you think an aspiring musician’s first instrument should be a stock model, or should he jump straight to the most expensive models?
I really think that you always should try and afford the best possible instrument. So go for the most expensive model immediately!
You started playing trombone at a late age of 17, but within 2 years, you progressed to professional playing and further taking up a position with Stockholm Opera Orchestra. How did you develop this remarkable progress speed and were there any significant influences that helped you along?
I infer it to be brain damage… lol… No, seriously, it was very easy for me to quickly learn how to play, and I could also memorize things immediately. My teacher also should have credit. His method of teaching was extremely efficient and constructive.
What are the secret tips to your daily practice routine? Do you use any method books in particular?
I have developed a warm up when I was 23 years old, a simple warm up that I have played every single morning since then. The warm up takes care of three basic things: breathing, attack and focus in sound. Apart from that, I just practice what I have to play in concerts, but always slow and very detailed.
You seem to be doing a lot of new repertoire, rather than transcriptions of existing music, such as avant-garde and theatre works. Do you have a particular work that you have always enjoyed playing?
I have done over 200 transcriptions actually, like Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Vivaldi’s Winter, Stravinsky’s Firebird, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Mozart’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I enjoy these as much as the modern repertoire. I also enjoy the Motorbike Concerto, my own Kundraan and Helikon Wasp, but also Mandrake in the Corner, David Trombone Concerto, Leopold Mozart Concerto and Michael Haydn Concerto…
What is your interpretation of borrowed music, since there is so little original solo material for trombone? Do you believe in reinvention or keeping as close as possible to the original intention of the composer?
I really think that one should try and get into the head of the composer. I try to imagine how the composer would have thought if he had a trombone in mind when he was composing the piece. I have transcribed my own compositions many times; one has to think a little bit differently, and I do believe that Mozart, Mussorgsky or Stravinsky would have thought the same.
As a trombone soloist, how do you feel about the relevancy of the lower brass soloist in the present day music scene?
I really think that trombone and tuba are excellent solo instruments and that they really belong to the 21st-century soloist scene. Much more has happened with the repertoire for these instruments in recent times, as compared to works for piano, violin or cello. The symphonic scene really needs to be creative, open and renewed, and the trombone and tuba are excellent examples of how to put fresh air into classical music.
It seems that you have a great friendship with Jan Sandström. Apart from the collaboration to create a new work, Motorbike Concerto, how else has he made an impact to your playing and composing career?
He was my composition teacher, and now he is my best friend. We absolutely LOVE music itself more than most other things in life, and to exchange ideas with him is one of the most beautiful things I have in my life. We feed each other with ideas constantly, and also listen critically to each others works, as well as helping each other out when stuck in a creative process. This friendship is now 24 years old, and without this friendship I believe I would have been a different kind of musician.
You are renowned for writing your own cadenzas to fit old pieces; what is the mark of an effective cadenza? Is it simply a means to show off virtuosity or does it have a higher musical meaning to you?
In a cadenza you have to show many things: musicality, sound, timing, charisma AS WELL AS compositional skills and musical taste; and of course virtuosity. So a cadenza for me is something of a musician’s chance to be something more than just an instrumentalist.
Do you foresee a time when you will need to “retire” from trombone playing to devote more time to conducting and composition as they become increasingly important in your life?
I really feel so attached to the trombone, and still feel that I play better than ever, so at the moment I am continuing to play despite the fact that I am both a full time composer and a full time conductor… As long as I have the energy, I will keep playing, but the first thing that I will leave if one day I have to, would be the trombone, the second thing the conducting, but I will remain a composer until the last day of my life!’
Finally, to conclude, what does the future hold for your composing and conducting careers and do you have any remaining ambitions as a trombonist?
I am composing a lot of pieces for “conducting trombonist and orchestra”, and my remaining ambition as a trombonist is to write cleverly for the trombone, so that I can get the maximum expression and move people as much as possible with my playing. I also have the ambition to create more and more interesting colours in my trombone sound, something that I recently have found extremely exciting.
When it comes to conducting, my ambition right now is to make my new orchestra “ARCTIC PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA” rise to international fame. We have several international tours lined up, and will record symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Berwald and Olsen over the next few years.
As a composer I am fully booked with commissions up to 2015, coming up is a piece for Frankfurt Biennial, a Viola Concerto, a piece for woodwind quintet and orchestra, Saxophone concerto and “KUNDRAAN III” for conducting trombonist/narrator and orchestra.