Wednesday, October 12, 2005

CD REVIEW: Tuur: Exodus

From The New Music Connoisseur comes this review by David Cleary of Paavo's recording of Erkki-Sven Tuur's Exodus and Violin Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and soloist Isabelle van Keulen:
Erkki-Sven Tuur : Exodus
ECM New Series 1830 — Time: 61:09

Judging from this release, the prolific and remarkable mid-career Estonian composer Erkki -Sven Tuur is eminently worth discovering.

The three selections here, all for orchestra, show oblique traces of other tonemeisters while fashioning a style that easily transcends anybody else's oeuvre to project a distinctive and compelling voice. Berio's and Ligeti's virtuosic large ensemble compositions are in Tuur's ear as is minimalism from both sides of the Atlantic. Touches of Schnittke and Ades can also be discerned, but this Estonian's technical facility outpaces either of them. The music is not tonal, but does bear scalar fingerprints.

The "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra" (1998) consists of a lengthy and intense scherzo, essentially a variation set on its opening violin arpeggio figure; a still and slow midsection, built from cluster harmonies and describing a narrative curve shape; and a brash and busy toccata finale. The violin writing is showy and challenging, yet idiomatic and telling. Here, as in the other selections on the CD, scoring is colorful and splendidly balanced, even at its most dense. It's a first-rate listen.

Both "Aditus" (2000, revised 2002) and "Exodus" (1999) are stun-level gripping pieces, full-throated and brimming with ferocious visceral energy. The former builds a vibrant edifice from pyramid stacked cluster ideas that faintly recall those of Arvo Part's massed cello opus "Fratres". But it's not a strictly minimalist opus; these clusters are expressed in more varied ways than anyone might think possible. "Exodus" gets closest to the minimalist aesthetic, but even here the persistent repeated note patterns restlessly shift pitch, are surrounded by myriad elaborations, and endure all manner of interruptions in their headlong rush to climax. This work's quiet, ecstatic close surprises and really convinces. Structures in both compositions seem intuitive, but satisfying. And the scoring is virtuoso-caliber vibrant and multi-hued.

Performances are terrific. Led by Paavo Jarvi, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra tackles this challenging fare with conspicuous success. Violin soloist Isabelle van Keulen puts forth a big, penetrating tone and technique to burn in both hands. Sound is top-flight. Except for one bad splice a little over halfway through the violin concerto's first movement, production is excellent. Run, do not walk, to obtain a copy of this splendid CD.

Listen to excerpts and purchase this CD from Amazon.com.

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