Lindberg: Orchestral Music / Saraste, Oramo, Salonen

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Avant-garde origins never quite let go. Brilliance, fantastic, imaginative orchestra textures all add to the draw of this music.

Make no mistake, Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg is a cutting-edge modernist nor has his blade been stropped smooth. It's severing is achieved through ragged saw-teeth and violent conflict.

He attended classes given by Paavo Heininen at Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy. Later he studied in Darmstadt with Ferneyhough and Lachenmann and with Donatoni at Siena and Grisey in Paris.

The works featured here have been riffled and reshuffled to present them broken from original couplings and sequenced early to late: 1982 to 2005.

Tendenza gives no quarter. Its upheaval and collisions are utterly committed. The shock-waves radiate outwards. Dissonance is the norm as is fragmentation and belligerence. Kraft is as obsidian-hard as Tendenza. It somehow embodies preferences for things that are fast and complicated. Its first of two segments ends in slowly turning scintillation. The second section quivers, squeaks and moans though ultimately rises to growling sharply accentuated aggression and a shriek of volleyed violence. Kinetics, written after a debilitating tropical illness forced silence on him for 18 months is more pointilliste than Kraft and Tendenza. Parts of it are redolent of Stravinsky's Petrushka though the music also lashes out with a vengeful goad and in viscous dissonance .

Marea starts with violent upheaval and nightmare bass-accented attack. As with Tendenza Avanti! sounds every bit the full orchestra - not scaled down at all. On the other hand, as the movement progresses, there are more foot and hand holds for the less ‘advanced’ listener and the accelerating rush speaks directly if with more wildness than we may be used to. A sprinting piano adds decorative pearlescent streamers and there is some degree of repetition to acclimatise the ears and mind. In this sense the music is a little closer to Silvestrov symphonies 4 and 5.

Joy is the third panel of the trilogy of Kinetics, Marea and Joy. It is dissonant yet has a softer impact but is just as complex in texture - with pianos, electronics and vividly recorded percussion.

Corrente for chamber orchestra shivers with eldritch life and references Stravinsky time and again but filtered through Darmstadt's disaffected alembic. Tragedy tolls out at the end. Corente II is a rewrite of Corrente for full orchestra and is allowed much more space. There are some lyric insurgencies and plenty of generously rhythmic interest.

Coyote Blues is another chamber orchestra piece. This incorporates ululating material redolent of 1960s Hovhaness and Penderecki with baleful trombones and rolling and roiling waves of sound. A Petrushka-like delight is suddenly shaken free at 10:09.

Arena has an abundance of fine lines often seething in activity and rising to a high glowing voltage of shining writing for violins. This is closed off by a steady humming diminuendo.

Arena II is the original written but large rather like the Corrente pair but by no means as effective in its dénouement.

Feria is jewelled with little fanfare figures allocated to brass and woodwind as individuals.

Gran duo strips out the strings and percussion leaving us in a tension net between brass and woodwind. There are no lead soloists - not a concerto except that all these Lindberg works sound like Concertos for Orchestra. His title Concerto for Orchestra comes after Chorale - the shortest piece here and one written expressly as a companion to the Berg Violin Concerto. It makes frank play with Bach's Es ist genug. The Concerto for Orchestra is a single movement piece of about half an hour duration. Its demeanour and fantastically mercurial nature brought home to me that all his orchestral pieces are display effusions, Darmstadt or otherwise.

The final and most recent work is Sculpture. Violins are elided. Instead we hear an orchestra of quadruple woodwind, two thrumming pianos, two harps, organ, two Wagner tubas and full brass complement. Again this is a spectacular written to complement the vast space of the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. A touch of ancient Rome aside, this is very much another virtuoso race-course as well as reminiscent of Penderecki and Sibelius at his most the most enigmatic and his most heroic and most catastrophic. It operates as a sort of dissonant Pohjola's Daughter. This is a vast lapidary gauze in motion cut across with gritty rhythmic attack as at 18:11. Parts of this look towards the grand tone poems of David Mathews. The sunburst at 1830 onwards is redolent of the sunrise in Night-Ride and Sunrise complete with an extravagantly chattering organ. It’s a mite garrulous but full of delights in the manner of Silvestrov's psychedelia. It ends on an almost Baxian glow; so very different from the Tendenza of two decades before.

There’s a good English and Finnish booklet by Kimmi Korhonen which tells you what you want to know at about the right pace and length. Avant-garde origins never quite let go - why should they - but brilliance, fantastic imaginative orchestra textures and Stravinskian mulch all add to the draw of this music.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 29, 2011

  • Catalog Number: ODE 1110-2Q

  • UPC: 761195111024

  • Label: Ondine

  • Number of Discs: 4

  • Composer: Magnus Lindberg

  • Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Sakari Oramo

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Avanti Chamber Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Toimii Ensemble

  • Performer: Esa Tapani