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Christian Lindberg and friends play Christian Lindberg
Christian LINDBERG Fafner Fanfare for Four Frogs (1998) Mandrake in the Corner (1998-2000) Doctor Decker-the Dentist (1999) Catmania (1998-1999) Kinky Creatures (1998) Salute to a Sausage Society (1999) Under the Pillow (1998-1999) Kokakoka (1998-1999) Arabenne (1996-1997) An Awfully Ugly Tune (1998)
Fredrik HÖGBERG The Ballad of Kit Bones (1998)
Christian Lindberg (trombone) Trombone Unit 2000 (Sven-Erik Eriksson, Jonas Bylund, Häkan Björkman, Jessica Gustavsson, Lars Westergren).
Christian Lindberg, Jonas Bylund, Jane Lennard Suff, David Hayens (narrators).
Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lan Shui (Mandrake in the Corner)
Tapiola Sinfonietta conducted by Jean- Jacques Kantorow (Arabenne)
BIS BIS-CD-1148 DDD [66:24]
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In February of this year I reviewed a fine disc of contemporary Swedish trumpet concertos, brilliantly performed by Håken Hardenberger (BIS-CD-1021). Within that review I commented that Hardenberger had single-handedly created a new contemporary repertoire for his instrument. His compatriot Christian Lindberg has done much the same for the trombone with Takemitsu, Sandström, Berio and Dominic Muldowney amongst the many composers (incredibly over seventy in all) who have written works premiered by him. Above all he has created an interest in the instrument which had simply not existed prior to his arrival on the international platform.

The difference here is that with the exception of one piece by Fredrik Högberg the music is by Lindberg himself. His initiation into composition is fairly recent with the earliest piece dating from 1996-1997. The majority of the works are brief, scored for combinations of between one and six trombones (several with narration of some kind) and in most cases decidedly tongue-in-cheek. The notable exceptions are Mandrake in the Corner, a "full blown" concerto of just under thirteen and a half minutes inspired by the comic strip character created by Lee Falk and Arabenne, scored for trombone and strings and again coming in at a substantial eleven minutes. Of these two works Mandrake in the Corner is particularly enjoyable, its three movements sounding not unlike the score of an action adventure film with a touch of John Adams in places. In Arabenne east meets west as Lindberg recalls musical memories of Jerusalem, the Jewish influence clearly discernible in the work's modally orientated melodic content. I cannot think of any other works scored for the unlikely combination of trombone and strings yet Lindberg manages to achieve some effective textural variety with, as you would expect, a highly virtuosic solo line packed with every effect you can shake a stick at including flutter tonguing, chords, lip trills and glissandos galore!

Of the remaining pieces, the Fafner Fanfare for Four Frogs draws on medieval music as its primary influence and forms a punchy opener. The jazzy Doctor Decker-the Dentist is great fun, the musical story of a dentist who daydreams about his alternative career as a musician. Listen out for the grind of the dentist's drill in the second movement, Time for Surgery (or is it the patient's scream of pain?!!). Kokakoka is a brief theatrical study in extended technique for solo trombone and narrator, involving various vocal exclamations surrounding the Kokakoka of the title as well an accompaniment of foot stamping, a kind of trombonist's one man band. The remaining works I found to be of less interest although An Awfully Ugly Tune is notable by virtue of its apt title. It is certainly ugly but most of all awful.

Finally I have to single out the one non-Lindberg piece on the disc, Fredrik Högberg's The Ballad of Kit Bones, a hilarious musical caricature of Lindberg himself in which the six trombonists sing, barbershop style, the story of Kit Bones, the fastest slide in the west. It's a kind of bone fight at the OK corral complete with "slide shots" and dying groans from the players as they are "shot".

Just one word of warning for the faint hearted. My review copy did not display a "parental guidance" label as is customary with certain pop music releases but the language is pretty daring on a couple of occasions!

I fear that anyone who is not a serious fan of either Lindberg or his instrument could well reach the point of overkill around half way through this disc. I found myself listening to it in a couple of sittings. The novelty items are fine in small doses although overall it is the two more substantial works that make the disc worthwhile. The standard of playing from all concerned is exceptional with Lindberg demonstrating his staggering technique to impressive effect. The recording is both vivid and well balanced.

Christopher Thomas

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