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Christian Lindberg conducts the Swedish Wind Ensemble
Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960), arr. Anders Högstedt Suite from ‘The Mountain King’  (1923) [22:01]
Edgard VARÈSE (1883-1965) rev. Chou Wen-Chung Intégrales (1925) [10:18]
Mats Larsson GOTHE (b. 1965) Prelude and Dance (1988) [5:09]
Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960), arr. Anders Högstedt Fest-Overture (1909) [7:12]
Christian LINDBERG (b.1958) Concerto for Winds and Percussion (2003) [15:13]
Swedish Wind Ensemble/Christian Lindberg
Recording Venue: 30th June – 3rd July 2004 at Danderyd Grammar School (Danderyds Gymnasium), Sweden
Michael HAYDN (1737-1806) Concert in D major for Alto Trombone, mvt III  [3:13]
Christian Lindberg (alto trombone), Australian Chamber Orchestra/Richard Tognetti
Recorded December 2002 at Sydney Conservatorium, Australia
Christian LINDBERG (b. 1958) Dream of Arkandia [5:17]
Sharon Bezaly (flute; alto flute), Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Christian Lindberg
Recording Venue: undisclosed. DDD
BIS BIS-CD-1268 [70:00]


Considering that five years ago Christian Lindberg was considered to be only a very fine performer on trombone, this album is a landmark event for him. It marks his coming of age in many ways, as it is his first CD as a conductor. The liner notes reflect his wry humor; he describes himself as more of a “windmill than anything else”. I have not yet seen him conduct, but considering both the speed with which he has become the chief conductor of the Swedish Wind Ensemble and the rather remarkable sounds that the group produces under his baton, he has clearly found a way to convey his vast musical knowledge and understanding.

Appropriately the album begins with a native Swedish work. The Mountain King was originally commissioned by the Royal Swedish Opera from Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén. Despite mixed reviews the composer considered this to be one of his greatest works. Although it is not particularly well known, it is easy to find agreement with that judgment. It is an intense and varied work of seven short movements and a great deal of recurring thematic material, potentially used as Wagnerian leitmotifs. Harmonically and melodically, however, it more closely resembles one of the ballet works by Ravel or Debussy. Structurally it is episodic much as Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Each movement creates a particular scene then ends as quickly as it began, moving on to the next. The arranging by Anders Högstedt translates the work to wind ensemble particularly well, and the result is wonderfully theatrical.

Following on the heels of The Mountain King comes Edgard Varèse’s Intégrales. While Varèse was not a particularly prolific composer, his works are widely considered to be among the best of art music, built around studies in experimental instrumentation and intense rhythmic and metrical complexity. This work is written for eleven wind instruments and four percussionists, all of which are combined in various ways to create a montage of sound tapestries. It is a pared down, extremely expressive piece that pushes against the self-imposed boundaries in ways forecasting the later electronic works for which Varèse would eventually become famous. It was originally performed in 1925 under Stokowski’s baton in New York City, and again hearkens to Stravinsky or Ravel. It is well chosen on the program following The Mountain King, and is equally well performed and conducted.

Next is a work totally unfamiliar to me, but again specifically selected complement the program both in character and performance. The insert booklet details the friendship of Mr. Lindberg and the composer, Mats Larsson Gothe. His Prelude and Dance is, predictably, a two movement work: the first a slow, brooding prelude followed by a rhythmically intense energetic dance section. It must be considered a neo-Romantic ballet work, and taken as such fits very neatly.

Following is another work by the Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén. Fest-Overture is a much more traditional sounding work than any of others here. The composer wrote it for ‘large military band’, and based it on the works of the Italian music corps. The original used a large number of instruments no longer readily available, however, and again Anders Högstedt lends his skill and knowledge of this specific ensemble to render a very solid transcription. This work is in many ways the weakest of the collection. The composition is not particularly strong and feels somewhat out of place with the more complex and expressive works placed before it. Even so, the wind ensemble performs capably under Mr. Lindberg’s direction, presenting the work to its best advantage.

Concluding the main portion of the album is a new composition written by the conductor on commission from The World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles conference in Jönköping in 2003: Concerto for Winds and Percussion. Again, the liner notes are useful and informative in coming to a better understanding of the less familiar pieces. This one was composed for the Swedish Wind Ensemble, and each individual part tailored and dedicated to a specific player. That type of care coupled with the loving attention that a composer gives his own work comes through. It is an excellent conclusion to a generally good program.

After the Concerto for Winds and Percussion there are two bonus tracks. The first is from Michael Haydn’s Concert in D major for Alto Trombone with Christian Lindberg on alto trombone with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. It was released in April 2004 under the title Classical Trombone Concertos (BIS-CD-1248) and, while totally out of place with the rest of the CD, is an outstanding piece from the baroque era. Finally there is one other work by Christian Lindberg, Dream of Arkandia, from The World of Montuagretta (BIS-CD-1428) which in stylistic terms hearkens to the early part of the twentieth century and would fit well into the rest of this album both in high quality and in character.

In summation, it would be difficult to conceive of a better debut work for Christian Lindberg, the conductor. Having already enjoyed more than two decades of accomplishment as a performer and composer, it is a delight to see this versatile and talented man so capably move into yet another role with such success. One can only hope that he is able to sustain this excellence to the benefit of us all.

Patrick Gary


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