Magnus Lindberg's seminal work, Kraft (1985), is not likely to make you friends with your neighbours. It is a work of such colossal dynamic force that it really needs to be heard live to appreciate fully. But Ondine's new recording gets pretty close to encompassing the full scale of the piece, from rebarbative opening to cataclysmic end. Yet there is also plenty of subtlety in Lindberg's writing, particularly towards the more delicate midway point. However, it is the percussive clamour - aided and abetted by the Toimii Ensemble, here supplementing the forces of the Finnish RSO - that impresses most.
Lindberg here plays his own Piano Concerto (1990-94), a substantial half-hour work that is both beguiling and dazzling where Kraft is mean and moody. If rhythm drives that earlier work, here the overriding mantra is harmony, in all sorts of weird and wonderful guises, from spectral to new-romantic. Again, there is no disputing the authority of the performance, expertly balanced by the Ondine engineers.Matthew Rye, Daily Telegraph, 7/24/2004
In Kraft, his early affinity with the post-1945 avant garde and its roots in, amongst others, Varèse, can still be heard. But despite the bravura of the confrontations it contrives between the orchestra (with electronics in attendance) and a team of clarinet, cello, piano and percussion soloists, the effect remains unashamedly earth-bound: sometimes dense to the point of congestion, other times highly fragmented … the music [of the Piano Concerto] builds an absorbing and exciting soundscape, broadening out in ways which announce one of Lindberg's most productive affinities - with his great Finnish precursor Sibelius. These performances are well characterised… Lindberg brings fine shades of colour and tone to bear on the generally forceful solo part of the piano concerto, and the recording is excellent.Arnold Whittall, Grammophone, 1/1/2005
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…The Piano Concerto…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 througha rhetoric that springs partly from Liszt's piano heroics, partly through Debussian impressionism.'Ivan Hewett, BBC Music Magazine, 7/1/2004
'…Piano Concerto…I find it astonishing just how French the whole concerto sounds, from Ravel in the first movement through to Messiaenic birdsong in the third. Colours, textures, atmosphere - all French. Of course, it also sounds unmistakably like Lindberg in the density of the writing and the intensity of the motivic activity: the solo piano and the orchestra seem to be trying to push their way through one another, sometimes with the flash of a rather grim sense of humour in the restless piani part, expertly handled by the composer…Kraft…refreshing, the black wilderness and intemporate crashes exciting and invigorating…'Martin Anderson, Finnish Music Quarterly, 5/1/2004
The Piano Concerto, completed in 1994 after a lengthy gestation, is the work of a composer poised between radicalism and retrenchment; sophisticated in its evolving ideas and moving deceptively between degrees of harmonic density, which result in elaborate yet finely worked textures - to which the solo part brings expressive mediation as well as a formal focus to underline the taut overall ground-plan.
Ravel's G minor Concerto is suggested as a precursor in terms of the luminous orchestration and intricate but avowedly non-percussive piano writing, yet the sometimes 'bluesy' harmonies also bring a latter-day Gershwin to mind. The three movements proceed without pause, the last two connected by a cadenza of cumulative impact - climaxing in a sonorous harmonic complex across the orchestra, whose 'trail' the soloist dwells upon in a poetic final soliloquy. Whether or not this process - which was to serve the composer well over the ensuing decade - in itself guarantees real musical substance is a moot point. What is never in doubt is the expertise of Lindberg's rendering of the solo part, nor his synchronicity with the orchestra - persuasively directed by longtime advocate Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Those impressed by Salonen's Sony disc of the more recent orchestral works will find investigating its antecedents in Lindberg's oeuvre an instructive and pleasurable one.Graham Simpson, International Record Review, 7/20/2004