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Christian LINDBERG (b. 1958)
Steppenwolf (2010-11) [20:26]
Tales of Galamanta (2013-14) [15:43]
Peking Twilight (2010-12) [21:06]
Rafael Altino (viola)
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Christian Lindberg
rec. 2017, Odense Concert Hall, Denmark.
Reviewed in SACD stereo.
BIS BIS-2308 SACD [58:23]

Christian Lindberg started out as a trombonist, but is now a high flyer both as a conductor and composer. He was already remarkably busy when interviewed on MWI back in 2008, and shows no sign of slowing down. He is a bit like Sir Malcolm Arnold in being a real ‘musician’s musician’, by which I also mean a ‘musician’s composer’, with a true feel for orchestration and a performer’s intuition for what works best from every point of view – that of the player and the audience.

Steppenwolf is a concerto for viola and orchestra, and a very impressive work indeed. Lindberg indicates his attraction to the viola as, like the trombone, “an outsider among orchestral instruments.” With its themes of “loneliness, compassion and the fight for life”, Lindberg explores not only the virtuoso skills of the performer, but also the “melancholic and deep qualities” inherent in the instrument itself. Conventional in its three movement structure, there is a great deal of expressive power communicated here, with gorgeous orchestral sonorities and a romantic feel to the melodic shaping and harmonic support. This is done almost entirely without sentimentality, though the ‘soft-centre’ of the piece arguably has some of this in the at times sweepingly cinematic nature of its gestures. This is by no means a criticism by the way – I can revel in this sort of thing as much as the next person, and we are indeed allowed a fair bit of revelling in the middle movement, entitled Soothing Empathy. There is a passage of spoken text in this movement which rarely seems to be a good idea, but we’ll let that slide. This is a fine work that you will certainly want to hear more than once.

Tales of Galamanta was written “for a television project of dance and music involving the Latvian State Symphony Orchestra and a dance group consisting of teenagers with difficulties fitting into society.” Using music from his two-act ‘arte commedia’ piece Dawn from Galamanta, this is dramatic music that pulls no punches early on, drawing on exotic-sounding modes for its often turbulent moods. There is a Camel-Train feel to some of the music further along that develops into an irregular march, the narrative feel of the piece taking us into dark fairy-tale realms involving murder and regret.

Peking Twilight was written for the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra for their centenary in 2012, and with such a virtuoso instrument at his disposal Lindberg wasted no time in creating a ‘concerto for orchestra’ that is both challenging but highly enjoyable to perform for all concerned. There are some local references thrown in, such as a football chant from the Norrköping soccer team which in fact runs through the entire work in one way or another. At over 20 minutes this is a substantial piece that covers a wide variety of moods, from atmospheric and mysterious to bouncy and witty, but never resting on one particular ‘feel’ for very long. The Odense Symphony Orchestra is give a full and exhilarating work-out, but comes out very much on top.

Christian Lindberg tells us that he doesn’t write in any style whatsoever, “I just listen to what my brain and soul tell me, and what I hear I simply put down on paper. To say anything more about my work would be pretentious nonsense.” Thus excused from being overly analytical, I would only add that this is a very approachable and enjoyable programme of some excellent new orchestral music, superbly performed and recorded, and highly recommendable to all.

Dominy Clements


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