Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is an exhausting disc of difficult, challenging music, sensationally played and recorded. Magnus Lindberg is sort of the Chris Rouse of Finland: he writes dynamic, vibrant, often violent music with unrelenting rhythmic drive, mostly devoid of conventional melody. That said, the music isn't obnoxiously dissonant (depending on your personal threshold of pain, of course), and it's so full of color and busyness that it's certainly not dull in the sense of "static". You always have the feeling that each work is going somewhere and that Lindberg is firmly in control of how and when it's going to get there.
The Piano Concerto (1990-94) actually treats the solo instrument in a
highly lyrical manner, the part consisting of an effusive profusion of ornamental filigree that sometimes opposes and sometimes coincides with the accompanying orchestral textures. There is a central slow movement, of sorts, and surprisingly the piece ends quietly and rhapsodically, all passion spent. The composer himself plays the relentlessly hyperactive piano solo with considerable nuance and a demonic intensity that we have every reason to expect. It goes without saying that Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the work about as well as is humanly possible.
The same performance values certainly hold true for KRAFT, Lindberg's "break-out" work. It won the old International Record Critics Award for contemporary music back in the mid-1980s, and deservedly so. Composed for huge orchestra, electronics, and the (then) avant-garde Toimii Ensemble, the title describes it all--it means "power" in German, not a famous American macaroni and cheese dinner in a box. Like the Piano Concerto, it lasts about half an hour--but it's about 10 times more aggressive, often staggeringly so. But when all is said and done the work stands in a great tradition of pieces employing a fantastically complex technique to achieve primal-sounding results, much as in Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring or the orchestral works of Varèse. Certainly it's not a piece you will want to hear regularly, but then neither is Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony.
Whatever your personal taste, rest assured that KRAFT is not sheer noise, though non-musical sound certainly plays a role. Despite the high level of dissonance and lack of melody, the piece displays a curiously compelling harmonic scheme that combined with exciting rhythms offers plenty of rewards for the intrepid listener. This new recording also trumps the premiere release on Finlandia (already nearly two decades old!) in terms of both realism and effective integration of the instrumental and electronic elements.
Like Stravinsky with The Rite, Lindberg realized that KRAFT represented an aesthetic extreme that permitted no further exploration. His later works, like the piano concerto, are perhaps less technically complex, but they are emotionally richer and certainly more varied in tone and temper. Still, the presence of an impressive talent is vividly on display here, and you won't find more persuasive interpretations. [6/10/2004]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano by Magnus Lindberg
Magnus Lindberg (Piano)
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1991/1994; Finland
Kraft by Magnus Lindberg
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1983-1985; Finland
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