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Erkki-Sven Tüür

Available from Amazon
Erkki-Sven Tüür, Violin Concerto, Aditus, Exodus, I. van Keulen, Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, P. Järvi
ECM New Series 1830
This Sunday, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra will perform a concert at the Clarice Smith Center (November 9, 3 pm). As a preview, we already reviewed the groups' most recent CD, which features a commissioned work by Estonian composer Toivo Tulev, conducted by Paul Hillier. This concert tour is lead by the choir's founding director, Tõnu Kaljuste, and the program (.PDF file) combines one of Vivaldi's settings of the Beatus vir (RV 597, for double chorus) with music by modern Estonian composers. The work of Arvo Pärt is more or less a known quantity, but many listeners are likely to be less familiar with the music of Erkki-Sven Tüür, whose truncated setting of the Requiem Mass (from the collection Architectonics VI) the group will perform. The work is dedicated to the memory of the conductor Peeter Lilje.

Another CD of Tüür's music found its way to my desk recently, featuring Isabelle van Keulen playing the composer's violin concerto, from 1998, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In an interview with Steve Lake in the liner notes, Tüür describes his compositional process as being open to both minimalism and more dissonant modernist techniques. While he is puzzled by composers who are "locked up by one school or another," Tüür also particularly dislikes composers who are "making the music in a post-modern 'anything goes' kind of way." The latest wrinkle in his development is a subtle difference: "I'm trying to make a real synthesis out of it. Before, there was a block of this, and a block of that. Now it's more ... melted together."

These observations certainly hold true in the works recorded here, in which fleeting snatches of more tonal sounds akin to the music of Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev are mixed inextricably with witheringly dissonant clusters. Film score fades into Boulez and back again. Tüür, by his own admission, conceives of music in terms of architectonic shape, carefully adding and subtracting by dynamic indication or orchestration. At the long-building climax of Exodus, a rock-style drum set pounds its way into the melee, a reference to Tüür's youthful participation in the progressive "chamber rock" band In Spe. He uses rock-style drums for the climactic ending of the first movement of the violin concerto, too. There are sections reminiscent of the atonal birds of Messiaen (in the second movement of the violin concerto, the holy minimalism of Pärt (the ethereal end of the second movement), and even Glass and Reich (in the opening of the third movement). The chance to hear some of Tüür's music is another reason to attend Sunday's concert.


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