Dacapo is the Danish national label, but for some reason it is they who bring us this disc with three pieces that Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg wrote for the New York Philharmonic and its chief conductor Alan Gilbert. Lindberg was the composer-in-residence for this orchestra from 2009-2012 and the three pieces here were recorded live at their premieres.
"Al largo" (2009-2010) continues for the most part the music that Magnus Lindberg was writing in the 1990s. These single-movement behemoths are based on a chaccone principle and tend to move at a fast pace. The composer's skill for orchestration is immense, giving everyone in the ensemble the spotlight, and this particular piece deserves the appellation of a concerto for orchestra as much as Lindberg's official Concerto for Orchestra of some years before. Longtime fans of Lindberg will feel that they have heard it all before, and indeed he reuses some thematic ideas nearly note for note, but the piece is still so impressive, fun and full of momentum that it doesn't bother me. "Al largo" does at times reflect Lindberg's turn towards a more neo-Romantic idiom, but references to the symphonies of Sibelius segue in a remarkably coherent fashion out of his busy modernism and back.
"EXPO" (2009) was the first piece that Lindberg wrote during his tenure with the NY Phil and opened one of its concerts. At 10 minutes, this is something of an extended fanfare, which sounds like it is designed to quickly familiarize the audience with Lindberg's various stylistic interests. Thus we get the fast ostinatos, the widely orchestrated clusters, the lush overtures to conventional tonality, and so on. Unfortunately it never coheres into a dramatic arc.
The Piano Concerto No. 2 (2011-2012) was written for Yefim Bronfman, who performs here. The piano is mainly treated percussively, somewhat like Bartók's first two piano concertos though without the dance rhythms. Indeed, at times the piano sound is downright brutal. There is a lack of a conventional soloist/ensemble opposition here, as the development of the piece is similar to Lindberg's orchestral works, but this time the piano is simply playing more than other instruments. The composer has called this crypto-Ravelian, but I'm not sure I agree. Certainly it is overtly virtuosic, and as Lindberg is an accomplished pianist himself he knows how to stretch the soloist role to its limits.
I feel the Piano Concerto No. 2 is overlong, needlessly bombastic and has little new to say after Lindberg's first concerto. I don't think it is destined for classic status. I'm reminded of Esa-Pekka Salonen's observation, made in an interview before the premiere of his own concerto, that almost no modern piano concertos have found their way into the repertoire after their premieres. Sadly, Lindberg's piece is probably doomed for this relative oblivion.
As these are live recordings, audience applause can be heard at the end of each piece, but the music itself is remarkably free from coughing. The liner notes are quite ample.
I'd recommend this disc mainly to those who are already Lindberg fans. While the music here may have managed to avoid alienating a NY subscriber audience on these respective dates, I'm not sure they would have such wide appeal on disc as to gain Lindberg more of an audience. But if you like Lindberg's mature style, "Al largo" is sure to entertain, and at least the other two pieces, if unsuccessful, are at least documented for fans.