Lindberg Aura & Engine
Few contemporary composers have established themselves as orchestral composers with the conviction of Magnus Lindberg, whose career over the past 15 years has seen him forge a personal style in this most potential-filled medium. Back in 1985, Kraft defined an approach to the orchestra overflowing with new and challenging ideas. The intervening years saw those ideas streamlined, even simplified, but not compromised, so that the generous span of Aura, completed in 1994, forms the natural climax of an exploratory and liberating decade.
Playing for some 37 minutes, Aura falls into four continuous sections (tracked separately here), defined as much by variety of incident as by contrast in character. A lengthy gathering of, and focusing on salient ideas leads to a powerfully sustained phase of monumental imagery and grandeur worthy of Bruckner, before a ‘scherzo’ of great cumulative energy overspills into a ‘finale’ which draws together the conflicting elements into a peroration of Sibelian inevitability. Decidedly, but not intrinsically, symphonic, Lindberg’s ideas are not so sharply defined, or evolve so organically, that they form a genuinely symphonic discourse. Listening to this work in parallel with Per Norgard’s Fifth Symphony (Chandos CHAN9533) and its searing, masterly layering of harmonic and rhythmic densities, confirms that Lindberg is ghosting the medium rather than remaking it. Aura is gripping music even so, and Knussen’s control over both the smallest detail and the broader soundscape, galvanising the BBC Symphony into playing of real class, makes the listening experience the more riveting.
Engine (1996) stands in absolute contrast: progressing in sharply defined textural blocks, with more than a hint of verse and refrain, this is Lindberg the constructivist, assembling a mosaic which resolves with satisfying unexpectedness. First-rate playing from the London Sinfonietta, and a disc which can only enhance Lindberg’s stature.'