Today, at 50, Rolf Martinsson is one of Sweden’s most successful composers. Performances of his work are coming thick and fast the world over, and his schedule is packed with new commissions. He has notched up a copious output consisting to a great extent of vocal and chamber music, but since the mid-1990s he has concentrated mainly on orchestral music, especially the solo concerto and its challenges.
During 2005 Martinsson received a commission from the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra for the Baltic Sea Festival. The result, Open Mind, is a concentrated, attractive ten-minute composition which makes a striking first item for a concert programme – in every way a modern concert overture. The title, accordingly to Martinsson, alludes “to an openness allowing the composer a free choice of expression with an open mind about musical ideas, gestures and styles and with a strong determination to communicate”.
Martinsson had a very productive year in 2005, when two solo concertos, one for cello and one for flute and a short orchestral piece first saw the light of day. Cello Concerto No. 1, written for Mats Lidström, was premiered in the spring. Jointly commissioned by the BBC and Malmö Symphony Orchestras, it was written on the initiative of Mats Lidström and the “From-Sweden.com” festival.
Also for Mats Lidström, Martinsson has excerpted a piece for solo cello, Exposé, Concert Fantasy, from the concerto cadenzas.
In autumn 2005 came the premiere performance of the flute concerto accorded the poetical sobriquet Shimmering Blue. In it Martinsson makes use, among other things, of an exciting development in instrumental technique, created by flautist Magnus Båge, which opens up the possibility of advance glissando playing. In places one seems to be hearing an entirely new instrument. This new technique also gave rise to the title of the piece. “Shimmering Blue” alludes partly to these solo glissandi on the flute, because the glissando playing is reminiscent of a kind of ‘Blue Notes’ occurring in jazz.
Shimmering Blue, was premiered in September 2005 at the Norrland Opera in Umeå by Magnus Båge, to whom it is dedicated.