His first great work combined with an impressive view of the
Christopher Culver | 09/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Ondine disc contains two pieces by Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, representing both the avant-garde style of his youth ("KRAFT") and the more restrained style to which he turned in the late 1980s and continues with today ("Piano Concerto"). They are performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Toimii, a Finnish new-music ensemble with which Lindberg has long been associated, conducted by the composer's old school chum Esa-Pekka Salonen. Lindberg himself performs piano in "Kraft" and in the soloist's role in the concerto.
"KRAFT" (1983-1985), ironically comissioned as a mere piano concerto, is the monster of a piece that really brought Lindberg to fame. It was written for the Toimii Ensemble and orchestra and premiered at the Helsinki Festival in 1985 where it created a sensation. Lindberg's fascinations at this point were rhythm and rough blocks of sound, as well as massive proportions: the score is over a meter tall and there are harmonies with as many as 72 notes. This is futuristic music in some ways: the soloists of the Toimii Ensemble are amplified, and many facets of the music were written with the help of computer software. However, it also looks to primal music or the music of impoverish peoples with its agressive percussion, some of which is performed on scrap metal. Although Lindberg found inspiration in schools that would normally alienate the public--most notably Darmstadt and punk rock--"KRAFT" is a fun and truly entertaining work.
After "KRAFT", Lindberg remained mostly silent for three years while he reconsidered his technique. His comeback occurred in 1989-1990 with the trilogy "Kinetics"-"Marea"-"Joy" (available on an earlier Ondine disc well worth obtaining), where he was more amassing well-ordered harmonies and exploring the orchestra as a whole. It is in this vein that he wrote his "Piano Concerto" (1991-1993), which takes as its major inspiration Ravel's G-major concerto. The first two moments seem to make this a somewhat traditional concerto. In the dynamic first movement, piano and orchestra are intertwined in the investigation of lines of harmony and orchestral colour. In the second movement, the piano begins as part of a concerto grosso-like team of small instrumental groups before breaking free as a soloist. The cadenza that forms the second half of the second movement is one of the finest parts of the work; the piano is entirely alone here, but exploits the piano's unique ability to harmonize with itself to continue his usual interest in rich harmonies. However, the third movement is unexpected, for instead of recapitulating the first, Lindberg takes off in a brand new direction. Seemingly faster than the first two movements, the music of the third movement is of great agility and expansion, where the piano and the orchestra compete here and cooperate there. It reaches a climax where the entire harmonic register is filled, and Lindberg throws in two exquisite glissandi.
While the music here is immensely enjoyable--and these pieces are landmarks in Lindberg's career, I don't think they form the best introduction to his work. Try the earlier disc on Ondine with "Feria", "Corrente II", and "Arena". But if you already enjoy Lindberg's work, you'll certainly want the uber-important "KRAFT" in your collection and you'll find pleasure in the concerto as well."
Somewhat better Lindberg here
scarecrow | Chicago, Illinois United States | 04/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this is actually the first piece I liked by Lindberg, and I'm a sucker for brilliant orchestration,if it has content like Boulez or Hughes Dufourt,Peter Eotvos,Wolfgang Rihm and Helmut Lachenmann to mention a few, but Lindberg has that aggressive demeanor he brings to his music, but the music ideas the linear ideas are always kept on a short leash,not wanting them to wander too far from an emotive focus I suspect, here the :Piano Concerto: is finely conceived, 'Momente form' somewhat is the structure, where the music seems to drift and unfold from moment to moment,the structural idea however is where the creator is suppose to introduce new materials, startling timbres in each moment, (sometimes each measure of music introduces new timbres,a hammer blow or wind flourish for example)As the"concerto" continues however(with Lindberg himself as pianist) it seems it doesn't draw strength from itself but gets confused within its own materials, so the ideas become tamer,more domesticated as we progress, and then with "marking time" like ideas,1 and 2 and 3 and 4 an,fast, well this is not interesting, Lindberg does however laways get a brilliant sound from the orchestra, the playing is extraordinary Esa=Pekka has a marvelous sense for these threadbare works,luminous timbres floating durations of filigree melodic ideas,like late serial Stavinsky of the "Septet or more interesting the "Movements for Piano and Orchestra"
:Kraft: however is another matter, like we are seeing the other deeper more disturbed side of Lindberg's psychology, I can gloss over the "special effects" orchestration for again I'm a sucker for timbre,but lots of percussion deaden things here, stops the music from flowing,like the four horse riders in"Lord of the Rings" bringing tyranny and death, Lindberg speaks in an original voice here, allowing the dense orchestral situations simply dissipate into simple violoncello tones,menacing, eeeery sul ponticello, with scraps on a guiro,fine particles of sound, and again all this is exquisitely played, all that fine intertistial weavings of timbre, with clarinet glissani,dull thudding bongoes, and cellos solo double stops. But again I don't think Lindberg knows where he is going for we simply drift, which sometimes you want to drift, but come on now! we lived through modernity, and we have too many so-called commissioned composers who also drift from style to trend to fad to cultural "Buzz", Magnus I suspect is in a different creative class for we can tell he loves timbre, the 'mysteries', the power, the paradigm of timbre, what it does, what it can do, and how it should nurtured.Incredible sounds however in "Kraft" also orchestral piano with steel drums, and large spring coils, lots of congas, and bass trombone blats, wonderful stuff.,log drums are here to to really punctuate things, nice safe violence to take our minds off the state of the globe under global warmongers.Something we all learned from Stravinsky is that in order for pure timbre to excite us it needs direction, direction of momentum, of speed, or planning,like hiding behind a corner, you can never telescope where you are going, and Lindberg does do that some of the time, at least enough of the time, where his marvelously power timbres dissipate, so what is left is"abbatoir"like grpahics, here he saves it for the Bb Contra Bass Clarinet, a hideous instrument (of beauty) but here not at all,more like one of Gardner's safe monsters,"Grendel", the monster speaks then non-syllable non-sense, here is another example of not knowing where one is going, so you simply introduce new items into the mix, like ice cream merchants who simply introduce new flavors, as 'tea' flavors, of 'kidney bean' flavors to spark to try to arrest something that is ill-conceived.The"monster" simply drifts further upwards this time to the timbral heavens of piccolo, and crotales, tremoli in the strings, harmonics,and tinckling of the piano,some melos comes to the surface however. but where were we to begin with, I lost it man, we are too far from home now."
The well-tempered" piano concerto followed by a lot of KRAFT
Roy U. Rojas Wahl | Teaneck, NJ United States | 10/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Did really nobody before me review this album?
Anyway, the piano concerto is brilliant, both in its form and its aspiration. Spherical piano-soundbites occur, sometimes nervous, then again calmed down, only to give way to the orchestra engaging in a kind of slowly building thunderstorm, which later gives way to spiralling, but well tempered piano figures. A relationship to Bach is evident here, and i have I never heard that in Lindbergs music before. This work is the most lyrical I know from Lindberg. I find his piano concerto actually a-typical of him; often his music appears either to nervous or too powerful to me, which is of course a very subjective, personal way of hearing things, and which brings me to the second part of this review: Power = KRAFT! What a mountain of music! Here, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Finnish RSO show the absolute mastering of their stuff, and maintain a tension even through the quiter passages which is nothing else but highly laudable. The piece itself burst into one's ear, only to slowly fade away, but with a burleskism, and with screaming riffs of phrases instead of elegance (like in the piano concerto). But this doesn't mean it isn't original or interesting: The horns and post-horns, accompanied by drums and cimbali, but most notably the interesting contributions of the Tomii ensemble (which consists of seven members including cellist Anssi Kartunen, and Lindberg and Salonen themselves!). Later I hear parallels in the use of lush cimbali and drums comparable to LA Variations from Salonen himself, but soon we are back into Linbergs powerplays (or call macho-ism?).
In summary: This is highly original music, ranging from the tempered elagance of the piano concerto to the sound explosions and explorations of KRAFT.
A must for fans of contemporary music and sounds.
I wonder how this would have sounded had the LA Phil recorded this piece in their new concert hall...! When do they make their next recording anyway??? "
The wild Lindberg and the later tamer Lindberg
R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 03/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What's a modern composer to do in the wide-open world after serialism, still after tonality, with no dominant style? Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg has recently generated one of the most compelling responses to the conundrum, with a series of powerful works for orchestra that take Lutoslawski as the most obvious point of departure (see my review of the Sony disc of orchestral works). The two works on this Ondine disc juxtapose Lindberg's earlier style, smack in the middle of the post-serialist avant-garde (KRAFT), and his mature style of the 1990s, which is marked by a synthesis of post-serialism and neoromanticism (Piano Concerto).
Both works are highly evocative -- cinematic even. The Piano Concerto is a light work, reminiscent of Ravel and Debussy. Lindberg himself plays the piano, and it is easy on the ears. Unlike the recent orchestral works, there is no sense of dynamically unfolding structure, but rather a fanciful impressionism. For me, it evokes moonlight on an ocean coast. I'm not sure why Ondine chose to present the Piano Concerto alongside KRAFT, one of the culminating pieces from his earlier heaven-storming avant period. It is certainly a striking contrast.
KRAFT opens with a full-orchestral cacophony, punctuated by percussion and snarling brass. My first reaction was that it was a parody of the avant-garde. This reaction is strengthened when the chaos eventually subsides at the end of the first movement, leaving only percussion and a sort of wordless scat-singing vocal, which evokes the music of the Pygmies of the Ituri Forest. At this point my sense that Lindberg's tongue was firmly in cheek was reinforced, and I thought "he must have heard the Art Ensemble of Chicago" At the same time, despite the tomfoolery, I was struck with an image from a great old anthropological documentary called "The Flame and the Fire" -- the opening dissonance could be Modern Civilization, and then we zoom away and down into the simple life of the Foragers. (Lindberg's reference to the "primitive" in the liner notes is a clue that this is not just a wild flight of fancy.)
As the second movement begins, the percussion is gradually joined by the piano, then the clarinet, then the other instruments of the Toimee Ensemble. This rather ghostly music is eventually joined by orchestral forces, leading to a passage of glissandos (very Xenakis-like) which intensifies like the "trip" scene in 2001 (very Ligeti-like), until the piece ends with a series of apocalyptic percussion crashes, as surely a tragic denouement as the ending of Mahler's 6th Symphony, which it echoes. Sticking with my film sketch, this could represent a failed series of metamorphoses or transmogrifications, and the ultimate impossibility of reconciling our evolved nature (as simple egalitarian foragers) with large complex Modern Social Structure. Or not.
For modern music afficionados, this is certainly music worth hearing. But it's not Lindberg's best, and if that's what you want, I would recommend the Sony disc from 2002 instead, which is the Essential Lindberg Disc. Unfortunately the Piano Concerto is indicative of his writing in the new millennium -- Magnus has lost his mojo. I hope he gets it back!"