Lindberg: Clarinet Concerto; Gran Duo; Chorale

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Lindberg
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Lindberg Clarinet Concerto
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto; Gran Duo; Chorale
PERFORMER: Kari Kriikku (clarinet); Finnish RSO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1038-2
Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto has enjoyed phenomenal success since its 2002 premiere, and rightly so. A marvellous vehicle for the amazing virtuosity of clarinettist Kari Krikku, this is a shiny, sophisticated, nostalgic cultural artefact, indubitably contemporary in language yet sensuously easy (tuneful, even) on the ear. It’s unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve; except a tiny doubt subsists whether it has a heart at all, or is just a dazzlingly calculated piece by one of the biggest talents around. God, it’s enjoyable, though! The ‘floating’ opening is indubitably an allusion to Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie, a work evoked (always subtly, never by anything so crude as a direct quotation) at many junctures in Lindberg’s vibrant and kaleidoscopic sound-fabric. But it’s not the only grist to the mill of his fabulous technique: I particularly enjoyed the sly Gershwin allusions in the final section, and the Respighi Pines of Rome reference about 16 minutes in. Modernity without tears indeed, and dumbfoundingly well done.

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The same could be said of the beguiling wind-brass antiphonies of Gran Duo (2000), a kind of Symphonies of Wind Instruments of our day, though (it must be said) softer-centred harmonically than Stravinsky’s essay. Indeed with Chorale, a luscious setting of Bach’s Es ist genug, Lindberg seems to be writing his equivalent of the Stravinsky Vom Himmel Hoch Variations. Either he’s a bit young for his Indian Summer, or wise beyond his years, but there’s no doubt this is a stunning disc. Calum MacDonald