Lindberg: Aura; Engine

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LABELS: DG Ô20/21′
WORKS: Aura; Engine
PERFORMER: BBC SO, London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen
CATALOGUE NO: 463 184-2
Magnus Lindberg carefully refrains from calling Aura (1994), his four-movement orchestral work dedicated to the memory of Lutoslawski, a symphony. But ‘symphonic’ it certainly is, both in its overall scale (playing continuously for 36 minutes) and sense of major achievement. Lindberg’s ability to impart purposeful harmonic direction to complex textural invention is one of his most impressive compositional strengths; nowhere is this quality more magisterially displayed than in Aura, with its strong and surprising cadential gestures emerging from roiling clouds of constellated heterophony. Self-confessedly, Lindberg owes much to Lutoslawski’s highly individual ‘symphonism’, where material is first presented in static, directionless statement, then harnessed to a powerful goal-driven advance (as in the ‘hesitant – direct’ movements of Lutoslawski’s Second Symphony, their function not a million miles removed from traditional exposition and development). Yet the recurrent references to Lindberg’s great compatriot Sibelius, in the chorale-like brass writing which marks transitions between movements, and in the impassioned string epilogue which closes the work, are equally revealing. In the strongest possible contrast, the ensemble piece Engine (1996) is a wickedly virtuosic toccata bringing many disparate ideas into abrasive polyphony within a rapid overall tempo. Together, these two scores illustrate why Lindberg is one of the most intriguing contemporary composers, at least upon the internationally recognised mainstream circuit. Oliver Knussen, a convinced advocate, directs excellent performances. Calum MacDonald