Hannu Lintu conducts orchestral works by Lindberg

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COMPOSERS: Magnus Lindberg
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Lindberg
WORKS: Al largo; Cello Concerto No. 2; Era
PERFORMER: Anssi Karttunen (cello); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
CATALOGUE NO: Ondine ODE 1281-5

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Magnus Lindberg opens his not-quite tone poem Era with deep, stern sounds, deliberately recalling the opening of Sibelius’s majestically austere Fourth Symphony. But in terms of sound and expression that turns out to be a false lead. Soon all is surging ardour, saluting Debussy, Strauss, the early Schoenberg, with a Tristanesque languishing four-note figure lighting the path through luscious thickets.

Ravel joins the melée in the more economically scored Al largo (the name translates as something like ‘all at sea’), but the effect is strikingly similar. Lindberg may protest post-modern post-Romanticism, and may knowingly reference Strauss’s ironic prankster Till Eulenspiegel; but although some of his musical thinking feels dreamlike, free-associative, more often the effect isn’t really ‘post’ at all – more Central European late Romanticism with a 21st-century accent. And none the worse for that, especially in these sumptuous, sweeping performances.

Having a single solo voice in the spotlight in the Cello Concerto No. 2 enables Lindberg to draw his lyrical thread tauter, to think in longer arching melodic paragraphs; but after the riotous profusion of Era and Al Largo that can feel a bit restricting. Also the otherwise superb recordings slightly let the cellist down: in one or two of Lindberg’s richer cello and orchestra textures even the excellent Anssi Karttunen struggles to make himself heard. Still, this is a sensuous feast.

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Stephen Johnson