Campana in aria
Concerto for Orchestra
Esa Tapani (horn)
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Recorded in The House of Culture, Helsinki – 31 August 2007 (Sculpture), 31 January-1 February 2008 (Campana in aria) & 14-16 April 2008
Reviewed by: Colin Clarke
Reviewed: November 2008
CD No: ONDINE ODE 1124-2
Duration: 64 minutes
Recently, I reviewed Naxos’s disc of the complete piano music of Magnus Lindberg, and found it massively stimulating. Here is a companion orchestral volume from Ondine. The music is just as challenging but just as rewarding.
Ondine’s recording team of Markku Veijonsuo (producer) and Pentti Männikkö has done a sterling job. The frequently complex textures never appear crowded.
Sculpture was written for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The initial concerts of that venue took place in 2003, and its sculptural aspects inspired this 2005 piece. Dark scoring is explored – Wagner tubas, double bassoons and bass clarinets flesh out the lower registers, although Lindberg’s Weltanschauung allows for more light to contrast with the darkness. Sculpture lasts for just under 23 minutes and acts as a dense exploration of a subterranean space. The actual sculptural inspiration lies with the expressionist post-modern architect Frank Gehry. Low brass gives the soundworld an ominous, powerful feel. In a recording, space is used in a way which does not readily translate into that medium (groups of trumpets and Wagner tubas are placed around the auditorium, for example).
Campana in aria is for solo horn and orchestra and dedicated to Esa-Pekka Salonen (a one-time horn-player) for his fortieth birthday. Lindberg takes his material from one of Salonen’s early works for horn. The title is more usually seen as a directive in scores to play ‘bells up’ (Mahler’s beloved “Schalltrichter auf!”). The solo part must be lip-busting, as it rarely leaves the higher register. The writing is virtuosic and Lindberg imaginatively augments the horn’s possibilities by stationing two further horn-players on either side of the orchestra. Esi Tapani is a superb player, negotiating the tricky, spiky lines with seeming ease.
Lindberg’s Concerto for Orchestra, a genre utilised, post-Bartók, by composers such as Elliott Carter and Witold Lutosławski is in a five-movement (played continuously), symmetrical outline commissioned by the BBC and dedicated to Jukka-Pekka Saraste (who conducted the premiere). A chaconne is featured heavily. Lindberg uses two different harmonic progressions that only meet in the finale.
The work’s opening is elemental. Brass plays a vital role in injecting a metallic brilliance to the scoring. The mode of expression is characteristically uncompromising, although at 4”10” and 13”50” come unabashed Romantic gestures. The impression of a master at work is unavoidable. Lindberg’s sonic awareness is remarkable, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra playing as if a score of this complexity is no big deal.
Very worthwhile music – brilliantly played and recorded.