Finland Today reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Friday, February 8, 2008,Toronto. The Music Gallery and New Music Concerts present Magnus Lindberg (composer) and Timo Korhonen (guitar) with David Hetherington (cello) and the NMC Ensemble.

In a pre-concert interview with Robert Aitken, Magnus Lindberg spoke about his compositional goal of using the instruments of an ensemble, orchestral or chamber, “as a single macro-instrument.”

Keeping this notion of a ‘macro-instrument’ in mind as I listened to five of Lindberg’s pieces, provided me with a reference point for his fascinating soundscapes. It was as if the instruments were “speaking” to each other in different dialects of the same language: as if Robbie Burns, Robert W. Service, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, and Eminem were jamming together on a composition by Cole Porter. You could sort the sonics by sameness and differences at the same time.

“Konzertstuck” a 12 minute duo with Lindberg at the piano and David Hetherington on cello was emotionally broad, ranging from passion to reflection to toe-tapping kineticism, responsive to vagaries of spirit like a Calder mobile.

Lindberg spoke of a similar “macro” principle he employs in composing for solo guitar, referring specifically to “Mano a mano (2004)” played this evening by its dedicatee, Timo Korhonen. Lindberg’s challenge is to write so the guitar sounds like an orchestra. The sound transformations on the solo guitar, as one chord resolves into the next, as one line of sound joins the entire network of sounds, strive to become part of one instrument big enough to play the music of urban life itself.

Timo Korhonen joined his guitar with the eccentric ensemble of clarinets (Max Christie), cello (David Hetherington), and percussion (Rick Sacks), for “Kiri (1996)” composed and conducted by Lindberg. This beautiful piece opens with the subterranean harmonies of contrabass and cello and climbs high on short spurts of rich, lively runs of various instrumental dialects and longer quiet lines of guitar. There are many tonal units, almost melodic, klezmeric runs, but they are woven into an atonal fabric of beautiful freedom.

Lindberg also conducted his earliest work on the program, “Linea d’ombra (1981), a 15 minute piece for flute (Robert Aitken), alto saxophone (Wallace Halladay), with Timo Horkonen on guitar and the impeccable Rick Sacks on percussion.

This piece so fresh and free brings to mind Lindberg’s description of ‘freedom’ in composition: “Freedom is when you put constraints, when you find rules, follow them, understand them, and destroy them.” The ensemble gets into extended techniques—Timo bangs on his guitar, Aitken moans into his flute calling to distant beings, the sax player yells and grunts, all players join in a Ramayanan Monkey Chant.

The looseness, the fragmented staccato riffs are held together, at least momentarily, by recognizably beautiful, virtuosic lines on every instrument, by the harmonies among them, and by the overlapping rhythmic similitudes. This high spirited play ends the evening on whispered words of poetry that resolve like the sound of a gong into silence and space: “Laugh, sigh, keep Death away, for the cold apple tree will bloom tonight.”

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