Illustrated Introduction – Magnus Lindberg in conversation with Sandy Burnett
Paul Norman (guitar) & Prach Boondiskulchok (piano)
Magdalena Wajdzik (piano)
Busch Ensemble [Mathieu van Bellen (violin), Jonathan Bloxham (cello) & Omri Epstein (piano)]
Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse
Reviewed: 9 January, 2013
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Purcell Room
Following on last year’s successful overhaul, the Park Lane Group’s Young Artists New Year Series continues with the presentation of five “Frontline Composers” over its early-evening recitals, with that figure going on to determine the “Linked Composers” as well as the “Frontline Choices” for inclusion during the course of the main concerts.
This programme was centred on Magnus Lindberg, who engaging conversational manner was to the fore that also provided a showcase for three of his instrumental works. Klavierstück (1977) goes back to the beginning of Lindberg’s career, though its serially-permeated density and rhythmic complexity does not preclude a greater lucidity of expression from emerging as it unfolds. Prach Boondiskulchok was the highly capable pianist here and in the two Études (2001/4), where the composer more directly connects with the early twentieth-century pianism that had no doubt inspired him all along. Between these items, Paul Norman gave a masterful rendition of Mano a mano (2004), a 20-minute sonata for guitar whose (four?) movements deftly outline a trajectory of almost symphonic dimensions. Unlike numerous others of Lindberg’s recent pieces, there can be no mistaking the highly-wrought motivic content or the formal clarity to which that material is directed. If Lindberg has written a latter-day masterpiece, then this surely is it.
More Lindberg came later, not least in Magdalena Wajdzik’s portion of the programme. She brought a light yet incisive touch to bear on Twine (1990), arguably the most significant of the composer’s piano works through its combining of serial and spectral elements with the modally-inflected formal continuity that came to the fore in his music thereafter. The centrepiece of the second half saw Wajdzik despatch the exacting technical demands of Piano Jubilees (2000) with enviable conviction: originating as a stand-alone piece to commemorate Pierre Boulez’s 75th-birthday, what became the first of the series proved a catalyst for five more pieces in which the underlying harmony is gradually refined to the point where an appreciably different musical idiom is apparent. In the first half, Wajdzik also gave a fine account of Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911) – its succession of seven dance numbers sounding less capricious than is often the norm, yet with a sense of inevitability which made the allusions of the ‘Epilogue’ affecting as well as evocative.
The remaining time was allotted to the Busch Ensemble, whose minor flaws in intonation hardly detracted from the intensity of the players’ commitment – not least in the Piano Trio (2012) that Lindberg had arranged from its clarinet equivalent for this concert. Its three movements forming a vehemently rhetorical whole, the dense textures and circuitous tonality suggest a long-lost British or French inter-war composer who had suddenly been rediscovered. Much more restrained in substance and intent, Sean Shepherd’s Piano Trio (2012) was a telling instance of ‘less is more’ – its agile, wistful then whimsical evocations suggesting a plausible way out of the post-minimalist impasse to have beset latter-day American composition. Not that such issues are relevant to David Matthews, whose Third Piano Trio (2005) unfolds as an intently compressed sonata allegro followed by a slow movement where a faster central episode endows the previously pensive music with greater expressive resolve. Assured playing by the Busch musicians and an impressive end to some fine music-making.