Notes and Editorial Reviews
Pekka Kuusisto vn, cond;
Magnus Lindberg, cond; Tapiola Sinfonietta
ONDINE 11752 (66: 52)
Magnus Lindberg’s compositions, like the works of most composers, have gone through a series of stylistic influences which
have helped the composer to reshape his music to his current mode of thinking. It seems that he has rediscovered (or perhaps better uncovered) a new appreciation of tonality, has honed his skills in orchestration, and has developed a newfound interest in the chamber orchestra. Some regret the transformation of late; they prefer the acerbic, biting, and dissonant style of his youth. Others welcome the more lush, more lucid style of some of his current works, among them the popular Clarinet Concerto and even the Violin Concerto on the current program. That is not to say that he has lost the dissonant aspects in his music; on the contrary, all of the works here possess moments of extreme dissonance, and yet their appeal lies in the way in which each piece is constructed.
The opening of the Violin Concerto, with the entry of the ominous-sounding solo violin, soon to be joined by the strings all in the high registers, is full of clashing sounds: some mystery is being revealed right before our ears. But the dissonances are made not only bearable, but meaningful, by the lyrical nature of the material and the constant dialogue between instrumental forces—whether civil or otherwise. Lindberg’s masterful orchestration—using an ensemble no bigger than one familiar to Mozart: strings and two each of oboes, bassoons, and horns—is filled with rounded sonorities, at times reminding one of the sound of an organ. The second movement begins without pause. It further explores the sense of dialogue, yet the soloist’s part seems even more impressive, more important here than in the first: the solo cadenza, comprising some 35 percent of the entire movement, is proof of that. A short three-and-a-half-minute Finale of exuberant and light-hearted spirits concludes the Concerto. There is no doubt throughout that the soloist, Pekka Kuusisto, is well equipped to handle the demanding writing imposed upon him here; he not only plays the notes—he makes the music.
began as a piano piece written for Boulez’s 75th birthday celebrations in 2000. The composer later added five pieces, creating a set of six in total, which are all musically interlinked. In 2002 he adapted it for chamber ensemble as a commissioned work for Ensemble InterContemporain; it is this version which is performed here. The six movements work well together (three faster, three slower), alternating moods and instrumentation between them. They are all lighter in effect than the Concerto, but coexist in a way similar to Beethoven’s Bagatelles, op. 126, creating a whole structure out of what may just, at first listening, seem like a bunch of smaller movements. The whole is certainly greater than the parts here. The members of the Tapiola Sinfonietta all play with great panache and work together well to characterize this music.
The last work, the most recent of the bunch, is
, written in 2010, and premiered in New York by that Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert. It is a symphony in everything but name, one which pays homage to two of Lindberg’s more significant teachers, Gérard Grisey and Franco Donatoni. This is the first work Lindberg composed for a large chamber orchestra after
, as the composer’s years between 2009 and 2012 were taken up primarily as composer-in-residence for the New York Philharmonic. The music is filled with colorful orchestrations, chamber-like sonorities, grand and sweeping climaxes built from smaller, quieter murmurings, and lyrical interludes which seem to come from nowhere and disappear just as quickly. The core of the work is the slower middle movement, one too which is filled with angst. The Concerto ends with what Lindberg calls a “toccata-like” movement: it is rhythmic and driving, four-and-a-half-minutes long, and brings the whole to a rousing conclusion.
In impeccably vivid and life-like sound, with an exceptionally talented orchestra and soloist fully in command, both technically and musically, of these extremely complex scores, this is a release to be savored. Were we never to have another recording of these works made by another orchestra and soloist, Lindberg’s reputation as a composer would forever be well served by the present forces. For those who enjoy contemporary music, this is a must. For those who think they do not, this is even more highly recommended; the Violin Concerto, in particular, provides one of the finest and most recent examples of how a composer can still take his impetus from a well-worn genre, using his own very personal language in creating something exciting, fresh, and new.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin by Magnus Lindberg
Pekka Kuusisto (Violin)
Period: 20th Century
Jubilees by Magnus Lindberg
Period: 20th Century
Written: 2000; Finland
Souvenir by Magnus Lindberg
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