Ondine continues their generous support of the Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg with this 2008 disc, featuring three of his pieces performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo. These are pieces squarely in Lindberg's mature style, each unfolding as a colourfully and powerfully orchestrated chaconne.
"Campana in aria" for horn and orchestra (1998) was written for the 40th birthday of Esa-Pekka Salonen, who studied with Magnus Lindberg at the Sibelius Academy first as a horn player before moving on to composition and ultimately conducting. "Campana in aria" isn't as much a horn concerto, a piece conceived as a sort of dialogue, as a soliloquy for horn with the orchestra backing it up. This strikes me as a very minor work and it's no big loss that it hasn't been commercially released until now.
The Concerto for Orchestra (2003), on the other hand, is something I've eagerly awaited through these years of only having the radio recording of its premiere under the BBC SO. This is one of Lindberg's mightiest works, offering his recent clearer textures and bold sense of development but without sacrificing the caffeinated exhuberance that marked his best output of the 1990s. There's a fine sense of closure when the work ends with the same horn calls as it began, against a more peaceful harmonic background. Too bad this isn't available on DVD, as it is very impressive to see every member of the orchestra exert themselves towards this very demanding writing.
"Sculpture" (2005) explores much the same soundworld as the Concerto for Orchestra, though with less virtuoso writing and a strange violin-less ensemble. There a lot of fine detail here, and even some agressive gestures which hark back to one of Lindberg's student works, "Sculpture II", composed in a radically different stylistic period.
Lindberg fans will want to pick this disc up for the Concerto for Orchestra. However, I'm not sure how it would serve as an introduction to Lindberg's work for those as yet unacquainted with it. I'd recommend instead a Sony Classical disc which is overall less satisfying, but offers a wider view of Lindberg's writing.
On a side note, Ondine needs to fire their graphic designer and hire someone new. The last couple of years have seen some amateur cover art from the label, and it's embarassing (further examples one, two and three). And yes, cover art does matter. I've talked to several classical music fans who bought Wolfgang Rihm's JAGDEN UND FORMEN because they were so impressed by DG's remarkable design. But I don't like to have a CD like this laying around when guests have come over.