Hillborg’s sphere of activity is extensive, covering orchestral, choral, and chamber music as well as pop music and music for films. He has received several awards and distinctions, including a Swedish Gramophone Award as Composer of the Year in 1995 for the record I want to see my beloved coming from the wild, which he co-produced with singer Eva Dahlgren. Celestial Mechanics for solo strings and his Violin Concerto were both chosen as recommended works at UNESCO’s Composers Rostrum, in 1992 and 1995 respectively, and in 2002 his orchestral work Dreaming River won first prize in this competition. In 2008 he was composer-in-residence at the Aspen Festival. Los Angeles Philharmonic Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen has been a champion of Hillborg’s work, presenting a number of the composer’s work with the orchestra.
Vaporized Tivoli was commissioned by the Ensemble Modern and dedicated to conductor Franck Ollu, who led the Ensemble in its premiere performance September 14, 2010, at the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Poland. The composer has supplied the following note:
“In Europe the word tivoli is used in much the same way as amusement park, funfair, or carnival is used in America. A main idea for the first part of Vaporized Tivoli is the image of kids running around in a tivoli with the (for grownups) incredible speed and energy only kids can have, trying out all the marvelous attractions that the tivoli offers – here’s a rollercoaster, let’s try that!, now for a carousel, wow, and look here, a bunch of junk that we can bang on... After about six minutes this ecstatically joyful flow suddenly changes – it’s as if a plug is pulled, and all the speed and energy is pouring out into a lush, strangely beautiful, and much more ambiguous soundscape.
“Here a more sinister association with tivoli was lurking in the back of my mind – in my teens I read Ray Bradbury’s novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, a story combining elements of fantasy and horror, about a nightmarish travelling tivoli that comes to town and preys on the people there.
“Finally, the music literally vaporizes, while accompanying a eerily sentimental melody line played by a lonely double-bass.”