The audience in the main hall of the National Concert Hall was quite different to the usual Friday night crowd, with half the audience being under 30. It showed that with affordable tickets and an unusual programme it is possible to draw a younger audience into the Hall. The occasion was the first night of the New Music Dublin festival, Christian Lindberg conducting the RTE National Symphony Orchestra in a programme of two of his own works and two of his fellow Swedish composer Jan Sandström.
The opening piece, Sandström’s Ocean Child is described as ‘a tribute to life, to curiosity and childish naivety…an attempt to recreate my childhood dreams about music.’ There are times when this intention comes through with almost Disney-like woodwind flourishes and heroic brass, but the opening of the piece is rather serious and mature, with sombre string chords. Not something one associates with a summer trip to the seaside. It is a well written piece all the same that the audience reacted positively to.
Lindberg comes into his own conducting the world premiere of his Kundraan and the Arctic Light, the third in his series for his character Kundraan, who must face down Lucifer with the help of his own personal Angels. A light-hearted work and at times quite simplistic, Lindberg nonetheless writes for the winds and brass knowledgeably. His narration is dramatic as is, naturally, his solo trombone playing. The lyric theme for the Angel of Love is sonorous and the travelling music is energetic and powerful. The orchestra responded to his conducting with alacrity, the strings rarely making such an impressive sound, even while their parts are undemanding. There were smiles in both the audience and the orchestra at the electronically generated Angels’ voices, adding to the cheerful atmosphere. The tuba solo was spectacularly written and delivered, an unusual treat, particularly when paired with the double basses.
Indri/Cave Canem is the second of Sandström’s pieces to be performed, a piece that Lindberg described Sandstrom writing by “following his nose” during his introduction. Grunts from the brass followed by calls from the woodwind show the animalistic nature of the piece. With an exciting drive from the opening, the piece was surprisingly complex and multifaceted. A mature composition showing dexterity, well handled by the orchestra.
The final piece, Peking Twilight, was far grander in scope than anything heard thus far. At times sounding like an adventure movie soundtrack, there were hints of a myriad of styles and influences. An interesting mix of traditional, Asian, classical and twentieth century sounds, swung beats on the bongoes contrasting with brass chorals and Hollywood strings. The piece maintained a sense of unity through Lindberg’s ability to express his vision through clarity of communication with the orchestra.
The audience went home satisfied after a night’s entertainment. The kids were still bounding with energy thanks to the undemanding yet vibrant music and the manic passion exuded by Lindberg. The orchestra seemed to enjoy their time with the visiting conductor, sounding fresh and connecting with a kind of music and multimedia content they would not often perform. The only pity was that there was no bonus post-show solo trombone recital as there was after the last concert!