Aura; Marea; Related Rocks*
*Emil Holmström, *Joonas Ahonen (keyboards), *Jani Niinimäki, *Jerry Piipponen (percussion); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
Ondine ODE 1384-2 66:39 mins
Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft (from the mid 1980s) is a violent, discordant monolithic beast, which shakes the listener by the scruff of the neck. Sensing that this was as far as he could go in this direction, the composer reinvented himself, especially in the realms of harmonic and thematic thinking. Marea, the first of a trilogy of pieces from around 1990 still manages to create a massive effect, with a strong emphasis on the bottom end of the texture. The underlying chaconne structure is a well-hidden backbone, but there is enough reiteration of melody and harmony to guide the ear through, and the orchestration is always scintillating, well balanced in the live recording.
The much longer Aura falls into four connected movements, and Lindberg tantalisingly says that it could be called a symphony but isn’t a symphony. It’s dedicated to the memory of Lutosławski, and the contrast between full orchestral passages and more sparsely scored sections are reminiscent of the older composer. It’s another live recording, which has a cumulative power, despite a few rough edges, and captures the slow-moving under-layer of sound in the second section. The fleet scherzo third movement is faster and even more exciting in Oliver Knussen’s studio recording with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, however.
Related Rocks has a completely different feel. Apart from the scoring, for two pianos, percussion and (discreet) electronics, it’s much more reliant on repeated cells and rhythmic gestures. Arpeggios sometimes reminded me of Petrushka, and the ending, though elusive, has a definite tonal flavour. Overall, a varied look at one of the most interesting composers around.