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Erkki-Sven Tüür Exodus Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür merges Minimalism with Modernism in his new cd...

Andrew McGregor 2003

'I'm open for both the Minimalist legacy and the Modernist legacy, only now the elements are not so much separated. Im trying to make a real synthesis out of it's more melted together'.

Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, interviewed in the notes for this new CD, and whatever it is he's doing, it's working. Minimalism? The intelligent sort, as practised by John Adams. Modernism? Shades of Ligeti, especially in the microtonal moments, but with some of the huge geological slabs of sound you might hear in a Magnus Lindberg score. Plus the rhythmic drive of a Steve Martland (Tüür used to be a rock musician), and also a kind of Pärt-like darkness and depth.

Just in case you can't tell already, I really liked this trio of first recordings, especially Tüür's Violin Concerto, which explodes from the speakers with a hyperactive burst of arpeggios from the soloist, which the orchestra picks up and turns back into sustained chords, before the fiddle player unpicks them again for us.

Tüür says he's never much liked the traditional idea of a virtuoso soloist with orchestral accompaniment, so he sets up a different dynamic: the soloist generating scales and harmonic sequences, which the orchestra picks up, transforms and then hands back for further comment or refinement. This leads to some truly startling and seriously enjoyable sounds, such as the turbulent bubbling of the pizzicato section in the first movement, or the slow ascent of the soloist out of the murky orchestral texture at the start of the second movement, before they climb skywards to join her.

Isabelle van Keulen is superb; she gave the first performance in Germany in 1999, and she played it at the Proms in August 2003. It's a tough role: short on extrovert display, long on inner drama and she's on right from the beginning, no holds barred.

Tüür's friend and fellow Estonian Paavo Järvi exerts absolute control over the CBSO, for whom one of the other works, Exodus, was commissioned. This is the team that gave the first performance four years ago, and they revel in its elemental savagery.

It's also a fine recording, ECM at its best, and the notes are helpful rather than being an idiosyncratic echo of the artwork. If you haven't heard his voice before, try Tüür as soon as you can. He's one of the most physically involving contemporary composers; perhaps not the first Estonian to spring to mind in classical music, but on the evidence of these three recent works a vital, involving voice nonetheless.

Like This? Try These:
Britten: Violin Concerto (Maxim Vengerov)
Messiaen: Des Canyons aux Étoiles (Radio France)
Terje Rypdal: Lux Aeterna

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