Lindberg: Clarinet Concerto; Gran Duo; Chorale

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Lindberg Clarinet Concerto
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto; Gran Duo; Chorale
PERFORMER: Kari Kriikku (clarinet); Finnish RSO/Sakari Oramo
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.


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