Magnus Lindberg on CD

0 of 5 stars

Action – Situation – Signification
…de Tartuffe, je crois
Linea d’ombra

Various Artists

0630-19756-2 (2 CDs)

2 hours 31 minutes


Avanti! Chamber Orchestra
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Jukka-Pekka Saraste


50 minutes

Arena 2
Coyote Blues

Avanti! Chamber Orchestra
Sakari Oramo


50 minutes

Corrente II

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Jukka-Pekka Saraste


49 minutes


BBC Symphony Orchestra
London Sinfonietta
Oliver Knussen

DG 463 184-2

51 minutes


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2001
CD No: See above
Duration: See above

Magnus Lindberg says his favourite instrument is the orchestra. Not surprising then that the majority of his output to date is for instruments – solo, chamber, ensemble and full symphony orchestra.

Perhaps Lindberg has written nothing more extraordinary than Kraft, with solo percussionists hitting and scraping apparatus literally found in a junkyard. While Kraft has its anarchic aspects, this 30-minute work is also lucidly controlled, the searing, dissonant climaxes compelling in their release. Kraft should be seen as well as heard – if you’re reading this on or before 2 December, then the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen perform Kraft on this day in London’s Royal Festival Hall – but in purely aural terms, Kraft is a seismic winner of a piece. Kraft is included as part of Finlandia’s ’Meet the Composer’ series; this inexpensive, generously filled ’twofer’ is an ideal introduction to Lindberg’s music.

The chosen works on this release cover the decade of the ’eighties when Lindberg (born 1958) was working to a more extreme agenda that he is today. Yet these early pieces, for all their fragmentation, disruptive elements and sound-stretching ’experiments’ also have an underlying logic that can be heard developing over this period. Kraft (1983-85) might then be considered a pivotal work. Kinetics from 1989 is tightly organised in terms of structure and harmony and points the way to Aura, already something of classic.

Kinetics begins Finlandia’s selection and encapsulates Lindberg’s more recent style – atmospheric, physical, energetic, coruscating, image-suggesting, vista-opening and expressive; slabs of sound contrast with delicately traced lines with no want of beauty. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts here. Another close friend, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, leads an alternative reading of Kinetics on ODE 784-2 (12’35” to Salonen’s 14’33”). Two minutes difference in a relatively short work is noteworthy; Saraste’s more urgent approach intensifies the music’s tautness and ’action’; Salonen brings a more Sibelian ruggedness – I’m pleased to know both recordings, and Kinetics is a great piece.

Stand-alone as it is, Kinetics is viewed by its composer as the first part of a trilogy, Marea and Joy, equally independent, being the other pieces; good then to have them on one CD. Marea vividly suggests the ’tides’ of the title; Joy, the longest work of the trio, 26 minutes and scored for the smallest forces, is based on consonant expression although mood-swings bring an intriguing ambiguity.

The exuberance of Lindberg’s music, the textural activity, is well demonstrated by the clarity of Arena 2, a reduction of Arena, which is for full orchestra. Conversely, Corrente II expands the original chamber dimensions. ODE 882-2 and ODE 911-2 contain both versions of both titles. The ensemble pieces on ODE 882-2 include the exotically-tinged, with a hint of Copland maybe, Coyote Blues, and the altogether spikier and earlier (1982) Tendenza. Corrente, its opening Boris Godunov-like bell-sounds suggest something sinister and includes a quote from Purcell’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary that intensifies Corrente’s Baroque references. In its full orchestral version, as Corrente II, the vision seems even darker and more agitated; yet it also shimmers where the chamber version pulsates and in doing so can be heard more as the “flowing” score that Corrente alludes to. The original Arena, written for the ’First International Sibelius Conductors’ Competition’ in 1995, is akin to a bright beacon throwing its light across the horizon, its melodic growth and cumulative tension particularly compelling – and one hell of a piece to present to on-edge competitors! Also on ODE 911-2 is the exuberant and colourful Feria, rhythmically pugnacious and expansively lyrical.

The recent, masterly Gran Duo for a group of wind and brass displays Lindberg’s structural prowess and harmonic lucidity; that’s a piece that will hopefully be recorded soonest. Expect in February a Sony CD with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen embracing Parada, Cantigas and Cello Concerto (Anssi Karttunen).

Meanwhile, as a conclusion to this survey, there’s Aura completed in 1994 – can it really be that long ago? Aura, a concerto for orchestra written in memory of Witold Lutoslawski, is a big piece (37 minutes) which contrasts and integrates the orchestra in the most commanding way. Lindberg chooses unlikely combinations (trumpet against piano, high winds against xylophone, scurrying strings with metal sheets in attendance) or blends various instruments to form a consort invoking far-away panoramas.

Lindberg doesn’t rely on sound only; harmony is equally important. Aura has a structure (albeit one a little hazy) with defined points of arrival and an ultimate destination. The final bars are a magical distillation of earlier promise: to reach them, one almighty, purging climax is required – a fantastic sequence. Lindberg’s language is approachable – melodic cells feed and develop Aura’s discourse – and there’s plenty of surface activity with rapid contrasts of colour. Aura is a really fine piece if perhaps a tad too long – I think Lindberg is slightly too occupied with display element (mini cadenzas) and occasionally sidelines Aura’s symphonic aspirations. This is music with a wide appeal with something to say and crosses boundaries saying it.

As a contrast is Engine (1996), fifteen minutes of stuttering rhythms and dissonant chords, recalling Berio and Xenakis if with a softer edge. Solos can be playful and improvisatory amid contrasting timbres. Engine doesn’t get stuck in a groove; indeed it juggernauts and hesitates before stopping.

On all six CDs, the performances are outstanding and reflect the dedicated and painstaking work of the musicians involved. Excellent sound too

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content