LINDBERG Cello Concerto No 2
The most significant piece here – in scale and ambition if not duration – is Era, written for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s 125th birthday in 2012 and designed for its hall’s resonant acoustic. It was performed later that year by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under John Storgårds and didn’t suffer a bit from the Barbican’s comparative lack of bloom.
Re-listening (way too many times) via iPlayer back then, I recall the BBC performance carrying more intent and heft than Hannu Lintu’s; the big bass rocks on which the piece sits – like Sibelius’s Fourth – had a more seismic effect when they collided. Era is possibly the most tonal, nostalgic Lindberg score yet in its reference to the ‘era’ before the First World War, when the symphony orchestra was enjoying its heyday. Lintu and the FRSO capture that well and with delicacy too. The colourful chord at 13'44" – absolutely Lindbergian yet somehow strangely new at the same time – appears wrapped in a sort of fin de siècle halo. Magical.
Where Lindberg’s First Cello Concerto is a more thick and integrated work than its successor, the Second varies its moods more despite restrained scoring. It has moments of blossoming lyricism, and greater spread and intensity in its solo writing, particularly in the cadenzas. Readers who have always found Lindberg’s music thrillingly exciting might be seduced by the work’s moments of stillness. That said, Karttunen’s playing hasn’t mellowed – if anything, the opposite.
Al largo (2010) was written during Lindberg’s New York Philharmonic residency and we can sense new things here too: more instances of the large orchestral texture devolving into something more intimate (the opening fanfares, recalling Feria, seem introverted) and a slight elegiac quality even when the music is scurrying towards huge, glistening columns in the composer’s trademark style. Again, like Sibelius, any ‘largo’ is hidden deep down, underneath copious bubbling activity on top. Fine performances, and a composer who never disappoints.