Lindberg: Piano Concerto; Kraft

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Kraft
PERFORMER: Magnus Lindberg (piano); Toimii Ensemble, Finnish RSO/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Magnus Lindberg is a composer who likes extremes. Whenever his music visits the middle range of gesture and dynamic, you can be pretty sure that it’s only a stage on some compelling journey to the outer regions, either of high, whispering delicacy, or of growling, brass- and gong-coloured tumult. His idiom is revealed at its most persuasive in his orchestral piece Kraft. It’s nearly 20 years old, and much played, but how freshly it comes up in this performance. The four solo parts are played by the group for whom Lindberg wrote the piece, a group which also includes the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. Their long familiarity with the piece shows in their perfect pacing of the music’s half-hour span, which builds up the tension in waves to the final hammer-blow climax. The Piano Concerto, completed in the mid-Nineties, is strikingly different. The fascination with many-layered textures that hover on the border between fast and slow, simple and massively complex, is still there. But it’s filtered through a rhetoric that springs partly from Liszt’s piano heroics, partly through Debussian impressionism. To my ears it’s an uneasy mix, not helped by the heavy-handed performance from the composer. The orchestra playing, though, is immensely impressive. Ivan Hewett