Accused*; 2 Episodes
Anu Komsi (soprano)*; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
Ondine ODE1345-2 55.75 mins
In the 1980s, Magnus Lindberg spearheaded a new generation of composer-conductors whose emergence emphatically belied claims that the orchestra’s days were numbered as a vehicle for new music. Viscerally dynamic and saturated with colour, his scores today continue to showcase the orchestra as a powerful instrument in its own right. Yet the two works here, written while he was London Philharmonic Orchestra composer in residence 2014-17, are less assured in their deeper purposes.
Both are performed with fire and commitment by Lindberg’s compatriots, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu. For 2014’s Accused they are joined by soprano soloist Anu Komsi, who proves impressively equal to its challenging, three-language coloratura. However, her dramatic task feels unclear. Subtitled ‘Three interrogations for soprano and orchestra’, linked sections respectively invoke the French Revolution, communist East Germany and present-day America. Komsi is both accuser and accused throughout, but nothing differentiates the two roles, rendering expressively vague the work’s pro-human rights stance while it hovers uncomfortably between monologue-dialogue and orchestral song cycle-operatic scena.
An array of composers from Falla to Ravel – and especially Berg – are detectable in Lindberg’s sumptuous neo-Romantic palette. The latter re-appear in Two Episodes (2016), but here the direct prompt is Beethoven and the purpose overtly dual: a piece referencing the iconic composer that’s both prelude to his Ninth Symphony and stand-alone. Yet quite what the episodes might signify in either case is uncertain despite their nonetheless engaging, turbulent textures.