When I saw that Lindberg's new concerto had been coupled with the Sibelius concerto I was very sceptical. Okay, both are Finns but, to me, that's where the similarities ended. No matter, I didn't have a good recording of the Sibelius and I was keen to hear the Lindberg for the first time; so I bought it. One disappointment was the fact that this cd only lasts about 53 minutes or so, surely Sony could have given us more. I think, perhaps, under filling recordings benefits the living composer because with each new work comes a new release and customers are encouraged to buy the lot rather than some well stocked up box set. So fair dos, I wouldn't want Magnus Lindberg to starve.
Having read the many reviews I was not surprised to hear an excellent performance of the Sibelius by Lisa Batiashvili (I'll call her LB from now on, her name's a bit of a mouthful). It is a technically fautless, clear and passionate sounding rendition. I've enjoyed this recording of the Sibelius very much: richly recorded and with plenty of romantic soul. I've listened to it many times. I cannot possibly say it's the best version available because there are so many to choose from. What I can say is that you can purchase knowing the work is in very safe hands.
given the choise of Sibelius violin cocnerto recordings the clincher will have to be the coupling. Magnus Lindberg is possibly Finland's greatest living composer: no mean feat in a country that boasts so many wonderful composers. Lindberg's music is, for the most part, hardly filled with the ice and snow or the wilder romantic tempestuous nature painting that you get with Sibelius. Many of his wiorks, this included, have a remarkable formal logic- quite craggy but with a full orchestral sound even with modest forces being employed. So his sense of form isn't so far from mature Sibelius. The music is rich and broadly tonal - so notihng to scare traditionalists off there.
I was surprised though by the icy and remote opening to the work setting the soloist and strings in high register. It's an arresting opening and I was hooked. It seemed a perfect continuation from the later works of Sibelius like the fourth and sixth symphonies.
The orchestra is of a modest size, reflecting that the work was written as a commmission for a Mozart festival. The music sounds nothing like Mozart and, as so often is the case, Lindberg gets a small orchestra to punch way above its weight, sounding as full as the late romantic concerto that had proceeded it on this disc. The three linked movements seem to follow an inevitable logic, the way that many Lindberg works do, and after a generally energetic final section the work finishes calmly: Lindberg was confident enough not to feel the need to finish the work in a blaze of glory.
Along the way this concerto is, as mentioned earlier, more tonally centred than his earlier works with some chorale like wind passages again echoing Sibelius. It is a gorgeous work lovingly performed by LB with fine accompaniement and top notch Sony sonics. So it gets an unreserved five stars and my most enthusiastic recommendation.As mentioned, this is the only recording of a major and very accessible contemporary violin concerto so there is plenty to feast on for modernists and traditionalists.
Both works are wonderful and well matched even if divided by almost a century. With top class performances and sonics this is highly recommended.