Christian Lindberg first came to my attention in Kalevi Aho’s
Symphony No. 9 for trombone and orchestra
– but this new CD is much less formal. As Lindberg writes in
the booklet, it’s intended as a thank you to ‘fans and supporters
on YouTube, Facebook and other websites’; this modern, media-savvy
approach extends to the irreverent cover artwork, in which Lindberg
poses as Antony Gormley’s aeroplane-winged ‘Angel of the North’.
These diverse media and cultural references are reflected in
the music, which ranges from arrangements of Vivaldi and Puccini
through to Big Band medleys, Broadway hits and Swedish folk
The recital opens with a daisy chain of big tunes, the deliciously
laid-back I’m Getting Sentimental Over You setting
the tone for this engaging mélange. Then Lindberg really gets
in the swing with Glenn Miller’s signature piece, In The
Mood; as for that evergreen, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Song
of India, it’s dispatched with great panache. Then there
are affectionate – and idiomatic – homages to the likes of Duke
Ellington, Fats Waller and Irving Berlin. The arrangement of
the latter’s 1926 hit, Blue Skies, is wonderfully winsome,
while Frank Perkins’ jazz standard, Stars Fell on Alabama,
stays just this side of sentimentality. Arranger Andrea Tarrodi’s
work is most artfully done, but it’s Lindberg’s expressive range
that really grabs the attention here.
The tribute to Jussi Björling, Sweden’s most famous tenor is
very different but no less infectious. Mixing operetta, opera
and song – including Millöcker, Leoncavallo and Nordqvist –
it manages to be both refulgent and rhythmically adept. Lindberg’s
articulation and general stylishness are wonders to behold.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the recording – warm and detailed
– is balanced in favour of the soloist, whose distinctive timbres
are especially well caught by Ingo Petry and his team. Anders
Högstedt, the band’s full-time arranger, has come up with a
potpourri of real charm and character. In spite of its eclectic
content, it all hangs together tolerably well.
The programme is nicely varied, too; the lighter Song to
Lotta – written for a little girl who admired Sandström’s
Motorcycle Odyssey but wanted something simpler to
play – is a short but atmospheric piece. It’s presented here
in Högstedt’s glowing adaptation for trombone and wind band.
What a lovely gift, and so winningly played by all concerned.
I haven’t enjoyed a trombone this much since I chanced upon
Edward Gregson’s Trombone Concerto, played with style
– and astonishing maturity – by the young Peter Moore (Chandos
Puccini was a great tunesmith, so it’s only right he should
be at the heart of A Night at the Opera. The crashing
chords that announce the start of Tosca are robbed
of some weight in the switch to wind band, but that’s more than
compensated for by the point and humour of Papageno’s famous
aria from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. The light, bright
tones of the alto trombone are ideal for this perky little piece,
which modulates seamlessly into the long, singing lines of ‘Un
bel di, vedremo’ from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Here
Lindberg really captures the ineffable, horizon-searching sadness
of the abandoned courtesan, longing for her husband’s return.
As for ‘Dio, che nell'alma infondere’, the Carlos/Posa
duet from Don Carlos, it’s firmly voiced and superbly
virile, the timbres of Verdi’s original remarkably well preserved.
Returning to Tosca, Lindberg brings real ardour and
a soaring line to Cavaradossi’s great aria, ‘E lucevan le slelle’,
but the Bizet is spoilt for me by the bland, rumty-tumty arrangement.
That said, Lindberg is relaxed and confident, clearly enjoying
every minute of this music.
In his liner-notes Lindberg describes Per-Ola Ukkonen’s arrangement
of Rodgers’ My Funny Valentine as ‘funky’; not surprising,
really, as it’s a supremely jazzy piece. From that low-key beat
at the start it develops into a captivating little number, with
splendid brass playing and a sure sense of rhythm. All very
different from A Christian Song, Sandström’s 40th
birthday present to Lindberg. Its punning title conceals music
of touching simplicity and charm, presented here in another
of Högstedt’s luminous adaptations. Not to be forgotten, Hans
Ek is a sympathetic and discreet accompanist throughout.
The joyful pyrotechnics of ‘Spring’, from Vivaldi’s Four
Seasons, hold no terrors for our soloist, his trills as
even as they are exhilarating. Initially I was surprised by
Lindberg’s ad hoc ‘vocals’ – a cartoonish cackle –
but it really needs to be taken in the irrepressible, Puckish
spirit in which they are uttered. That said, I don’t want to
hear La Primavera again, probably because
the original is so horribly overexposed. I’ve no such aversion
to Ukkonen’s arrangement of Oskar Lindberg’s Old Pastoral
Hymn from Dalarna. Its mournful, winding melody is played
with great feeling and an astonishing purity of line.
Warm, witty and ever so slightly weird, one senses this album
is a good reflection of Lindberg’s personality. While not everything
here is truly memorable – and the orchestra is a little too
recessed at times – the solo playing most certainly is.
Slight, perhaps; engaging, certainly. Great fun.