What we did get was no mere filler namely a complete performance of Six Jubilees, only Lindbergs second mature piano piece, and a welcome alternative slant on a composer known principally for his orchestral music. Jubilee I was written as Lindbergs contribution to a cycle commemorating Pierre Boulezs 75th-birthday. Although it features no discernible Boulez quotations, the piece is so alive with evolving gestures as to warrant continuation. The remaining five pieces develop its motivic and harmonic potential culminating in Jubilee VI, where the originals formal potential is audibly laid bare.
No disrespect to Lindberg to say his piano idiom is not notably individual in itself. Messiaen is evident in the chordal writing and keyboard texture, albeit filtered through later French composers such as Boulez and Tristan Murail, but the formal continuity between pieces and across the cycle is patently Lindbergian. And the trajectory where odd-numbered pieces speed up, while even-numbered ones slow down makes performance appropriate in the context of Bergs Lyric Suite. Good to hear Lindberg as performer too, projecting his iridescent piano writing with accuracy to judge from a cursory following of the score and confidence.
The Clarinet Quintet (1992) may give some indication of what an eventual Lindberg string quartet will sound like. In its extremes of register and glacial textures, this is perhaps his most Nordic work, though the music draws on no obvious precedents Finnish or otherwise in its intently pulsating energy, culminating in a section of toccata-like exhilaration. This is very much a work for five equal players, and Kari Kriikkus integration into the ensemble of the Arditti Quartet ensured that the musics surging activity came through unchecked.
The Ardittis framed the Lindberg pieces with two classics of the quartet repertoire. Stravinskys Three Pieces (1914) is a classic example of a sequence whose overall coherence stems from its inner contrasts. The sophisticated primitivism of the opening piece; the whimsical rhythmic mannerisms of the second; the distanced ceremonial aura of the third: all would reappear in Stravinskys output, but never so directly as here.
Where Stravinsky is reductive, Bergs Lyric Suite is a complex amalgam of technique and expression charting the perceived rise and fall of love at a musical and, as we now know, conceptual level. Yet the fascination would be little were the work of a lesser intrinsic quality, one of the few quartets of any era to reflect the past as surely as it predicts the future. If the Ardittis tilted the balance of their interpretation towards the analytical, the expressive playing of violist Dov Scheindlin ensured this was an account to engage heart as well as brain, while confirming the flexibility-within-discipline of Bergs quartet writing. A quality Lindberg himself may in time draw upon?
- Visit the Arditti Quartet website at www.ardittiquartet.com