Related Rocks (1997)
Marea (Tide) (1989-90)
Emil Holmström, Joonas Ahonen (pianos/keyboards), Jani Niinimäki, Jerry Piipponen (percussion) (all in Related Rocks), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Hannu Lintu
Ondine ODE1384-2 [66’59”]
Producer Laura Heikinheimo; Engineers Anna-Kaisa Kemppi, Antti Pohjola, Enno Mäemets October 2019 and bDecember 2020 at Music Centre, Helsinki
Recorded October 2019 and December 2020 (Marea) at Music Centre, Helsinki
Written by Richard Whitehouse
What’s the story?
Ondine continues its extensive coverage of Magnus Lindberg with this retrospective volume of works mainly written in the 1990s; at a time when the Finnish composer was moving away from his overtly avant-garde stance to an accommodation with the contemporary mainstream.
What’s the music like?
It was when Lindberg was writing Aura that Lutosławski died, hence the memorial dedication of a piece which represents a conscious summation of what the younger composer had striven for to that time. Its almost 40-minute duration and its division into four movements led some commentators to attribute a symphonic conception; something that the predicating of gestural over motivic continuity effectively refutes. That said, the initial section does have a feeling of exposition in its respective dynamism and stasis; ultimately arriving at a seismic unison chord from which its successor unfolds along the lines of ‘slow movement’ with an initial emphasis on the rhetorical interplay of brass and strings, followed by an evocative episode with tuned percussion and woodwind to the fore. Another unison leads to the third section, its animated motion nominally akin to a scherzo though with only a halting momentum on the way to the final section; a finale inasmuch as it takes the piece through to a threnodic conclusion, albeit with only a tangential bringing of the overall structure formally and expressively full circle.
Although the trajectory of Lindberg’s output thereafter was toward greater harmonic clarity and tonal directness, there have been numerous ‘curve balls’ – not least Related Rocks with its electronic gloss on the favourite modernist line-up of two pianos and two percussionists. Nor is there anything remotely proscriptive about one of this composer’s most effervescent and playful works (not least via a doubtless coincidental allusion at one point to the theme-tune of the 1970s snooker programme Pot Black), as retains its appeal a quarter-century on.
Finally, to Marea – central piece in an informal trilogy of works for chamber orchestra that exemplify Lindberg’s music towards the end of his first decade of creative maturity. At just 12 minutes, it might also be considered a template for those curtain-raisers often found in the composer’s recent output; though the level of incident and intricacy of texture, underpinned by an upward-striving trajectory, evinces a simplification too often replaced by superficiality once the composer arrived at an idiom lending itself gratefully to international commissions.
Does it all work?
Mainly, given Lindberg was seeking to extend his musical language onto a wider expressive canvas without veering towards the diluted idiom often informing his idiom thenceforth. No doubt that, whatever its formal issues, Aura stands among of the crucial orchestral works of its period and Hannu Lintu’s take is a worthy successor to the pioneering account from Oliver Knussen (DG). Marea summons a feisty response by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, while those keyboardists and percussionists render Related Rocks with scintillating virtuosity.
Is it recommended?
Indeed. Those who dislike the rebarbative feel of Lindberg’s early music or are unpersuaded by his latter-day output ought to find something worth engaging with in these pieces. Neither the high-impact sound nor booklet notes by Kimmo Korhonen leaves anything to be desired.
You can discover more about this release at the Ondine website. You can read more about Lindberg here. The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra are here, and their conductor Hannu Lintu’s website can be accessed by clicking here.