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Stefan LINDGREN (b. 1960)
Piano Concerto No. 4 (2012) [33:48]
Nocturne for soprano and orchestra (2012) [15:37]
Poem (2007) [9:20]
Stefan Lindgren (piano); Christin Högnabba (soprano)
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Manze
rec. Helsingborg Konserthus, 14-16 Jan 2014
NOSAG CD215 [58:45]

A graduate of the Juilliard, the Swedish composer Stefan Lindgren has been orchestral pianist with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (1993-2001) and the Royal Philharmonic (from 2007). His works include a symphony, four piano concertos, six piano sonatas, piano quintet, piano quartet, flute trio, horn trio, piano trio, violin sonata, cello sonata, clarinet sonata, flute sonata, bassoon sonata, songs, poem for organ and a duo for clarinet and piano. As a composer he has not lacked for recordings and we can cite those on the Swedish label Nosag: chamber music and piano sonatas (Nosag CD178). Lindgren has recorded the music of Alkan for Daphne and the works of Hammerth for Nosag.

The soundworld inhabited by the Piano Concerto is abrasive and with razory edges. There's a rising tempest with icy screes of notes for the piano then echoed by the orchestra. At times it's like a misty amalagam of Cyril Scott meeting Prokofiev. The central Lento is all arctic ecstasy like a slightly dissonant and hypnotic version of Bax's Winter Legends. The finale appears to find inspiration in Mussorgsky's A Night on the Bare Mountain. There's tempestuous activity here coupled with bursts of kinetic energy suggestive of Bartók and William Schuman.

The Nocturne comprises three poems (by Goran Karlsson-Skoog) for soprano and orchestra. An extended orchestral prelude in three parts casts an intensely exotic spell, sometimes doom-laden, sometimes melancholy. Woodwind are very much to the fore but always under a threatening orchestral pall. During the singing Lindgren lightens the orchestration but not the atmosphere. The soprano here is Christin Högnabba who is clearly in sympathy with the composer's chilly and sometimes inimical emotional world. In this case the work ends with singing and a calming orchestral underpinning that together function as a blessing - a hymn sinking delightfully into silence.

Högnabba has also recorded with Lindgren an exciting collection of Finnish songs to Swedish words. The featured composers are Merikanto, Palmgren, Melartin, Järnefelt and that pretty much unknown colossus of Finnish symphony production, Erik Fordell who vies with Leif Segerstam in quantity of symphonies. The Högnabba/Lindgren song recitals are on Nosag CD 202 and CD 216. There's even an all-Fordell song CD (Nosag CD223) from that duo. I hope that we might be able to review these at some point.

Moderately dissonant, the Poem steps out, thoughtful and restless, from the pages of Ives Unanswered Question. It sounds for all the world like an updated echo of Scriabin. Malign brass call out over Lindgren's strange landscape and the work closes in a threatening rush.

The booklet is in Swedish and English and profiles all the artists and the music. The sung words for Nocturne are reproduced but only in Swedish on the rear insert.

Lindgren must surely be pleased with what I take to be a faithful audio account of three of his major works. Nocturne stands out in this company.

Rob Barnett



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