Magnus Lindberg: EXPO - Piano Concerto No. 2 - Al largo
12 December 2013
David HurwitzArtistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
When was the last time a composer in residence at a major orchestra produced three first-rate pieces? Here is your answer. Magnus Lindberg is unquestionably one of our very greatest living composers, and he can be heard here at the top of his form. EXPO is a brilliant overture that makes telling use of the simple opposition of fast and slow music. It makes a great concert-opener and calling-card for some of the exciting things happening in contemporary music today. Al largo is a seascape, and a very atmospheric one at that. There are moments when Lindberg’s “dirty secret”, his love of Ravel, is very apparent, nowhere more so than where he quotes (quite literally) the opening of the Mother Goose ballet. Although Lindberg’s style is based more on harmony and texture than on melody, much of the music is lyrically captivating, and it’s all just gorgeous.
The Second Piano Concerto also has its Ravel-like moments. Lindberg likens his two concertos to the pair by the French composer, with this one inspired by the Concerto for the Left Hand. The resemblance is merely conceptual, having more to do with the music’s depth of sonority and luminous textures than with any other audible resemblance. I am so glad that Lindberg had the guts simply to call the piece “Piano Concerto No. 2″ rather than making up some pointless name, like “Galactic Convulsions” or some such nonsense. The work has sufficient individuality just being what it is: a great piece of music, superbly played by Yefim Bronfman and, as with all these works, magnificently conducted by Alan Gilbert at the helm of the always virtuosic New York Philharmonic.
The engineering is also amazingly lifelike and the live audience more than usually quiet coming from this source. If you care at all about the best contemporary music, you will be delighted to own this remarkable disc.