For fans of Magnus Lindberg, this disc must have been eagerly anticipated because it presents, I think, his first choral setting. He is normally associated with virtuoso orchestral writing.
Graffiti sets seemingly random pieces of graffiti from Pompei for choir and full orchestra. The texts show that nothing changes much over the centuries. The text doesn't provide a real narrative but the score is tightly constructed with the usual orchestral flourishes. The music is, perhaps more tonal than previously, with the choral writing being archaicly modal - almost in the manor of gregorian chant. The orchestral part is more challenging.
Lindberg said that he had been studying Stravinsky's work in preparation for this work. This shows in the use of latin; like Stravinsky, using a "dead" language that had been monumentalised by its antiquity. In that sense it shares much in common with Oedipus Rex minus the narrative and speaker. The lack of connection between text and music perhaps links to other Stravinsky works like Pulcinella and the separation of characters from speakers in The Soldier's Tale and Renard. The effect of Lindberg's work sounds more "romantic" than Stravinsky's "neo classicism" and has the usual colourful Lindberg harmonies and orchestration. In truth, the Stravinsky works sound more rigorous and powerful as a result. That said, it is still an attractive piece that hangs together convincingly.
It is a very attractive piece and this is probably the definitive performance. It is thirty one minutes long and it provides the title for the disc. It is the larger work on the disc but it is the second best. The other work "Seht die Sonne" is a true masterpiece.
At little over 25 minutes long it packs a tremendous punch. Lindberg says in the notes that it could be seen as his second symphony if Aura is considered his first. He says he's not interested in writing symphonies but this is one in all but name. It begins with a horn motive that drives the whole work - echoes of Sibelius'fifth maybe with a hint of the blues. In spite of that small cell governing the work, it manages a huge dramatic range from huge orchestral clusters to some remarkably luminous string writing, particularly in the second movement and at the end. An extended cello cadenza links the second movement to an increasingly turbulent finale that collapses to a luminous but melancholic close. Never mind choral works, I'd l;ove to hear Lindberg tackle a work for strings alone.
The notes suggest a link to Sibelius's fifth and sixth symphonies. It certainly has the same sense of organic integrity but the title alludes to Schoenberg - taking the title for Part II to the Gurrelieder. The only explicit link to Schoenberg is a short quoatation from his first chamber symphony - blink and you'll miss it. The tonality often carries a late romantic chromaticism. The orchestration is, as always, a wonder.
This is great music by a composer at the height of his powers, with plenty for both traditionalists and modernists to enjoy. It could be seen as suming up his development over the last decade or so but manages to sound very new in its dramatic range.
If I have any quibble it is that there is room for a decent stocking filler on this disc but if the money goes to Magnus Lindberg then I don't begrudge him that. The performance is terrific, as you'd expect, though the sound is a little close and dry - hardly enough to dock a point.
I recommend this to everyone and for those eager to hear the new choral work; you'll find the filler piece a wonderful surprise.