Marcus Karl Maroney
Erkki-Sven Tüür: Piano Concerto – Symphony No. 7, "Pietas"
Laura Mikkola (piano), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, NDR Choir, Paavo Järvi (conductor)
Recording: Alte Oper, Frankfurt (June 2009), hr-Sendesaal, Frankfurt (June 2010) – 62'41
ECM New Series 2341 – Booklet in English
Erkki-Sven Tüür weaves engaging sonic landscapes from the simplest, most
familiar musical materials. Simple scalar figures and weaving gestures
are dressed up in tintinnabulary orchestration, and harmonies often use
familiar chords. What Tüür does is combine and layer these recognizable
parts in surprising new ways. His training as a percussionist and
background as a rock musician imbue his works with rhythmic vitality
that is never straight-laced. There is a penchant to lapse into rock or
jazz-derived passages, some of which seem to connect with their
surroundings and some of which seem directly in conflict.
The works on this recording, an abstract concerto and a programmatic
symphony, were both written in the first decade of this century for the
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. Each begins with a percussed unison,
from which an opening Klang organically grows. This leads to the first choral entry in the Seventh Symphony.Here,
the voices emerge almost as an instrumental family instead of familiar
vocal sonorities. The text for the symphony is diverse, consisting of
aphoristic, pacific utterances from sources as diverse as Mahatma
Gandhi, Jimi Hendrix, and St. Augustine, all sung in English. A
three-line refrain from Siddhartha Gautama gives the work a clear
audible structure. Much of the choral writing is homophonic and is
divided by motivically busy but harmonically static orchestral episodes.
The orchestral writing holds the attention more readily than the choral
moments, perhaps because of its more diverse gestural vocabulary, but
the vocal portions are beautifully sung, effectively conveying the
elegance and simplicity of the texts.
The Piano Concerto is a more tempestuous work. The three
connected movements grow out of a gong-like low C, and influences from
the electronic studio and spectralist school are omnipresent. The work
seems to grow and blossom until the climactic transition into the third
movement, heralding an unexpected jazzy episode. This jarring stylistic
re-accumulates into an ever more extroverted climax, followed by a peaceful, almost Impressionistic denouement.
In both works, Paavo Järvi leads the Frankfurt musicians expertly.
Rhythms are precise and ECM's excellent recorded sound allows every
detail of Tüür's imaginative orchestration to sparkle. The NDR Choir
sings with excellent blend and diction in the Symphony, and pianist Laura Mikkola plays with panache in the Piano Concerto.
Throughout, it is clear that these musicians are excellent Tüür
evangelists , and devotees of this composer need not hesitate to heed
their call. Newcomers may find Tüür’s shorter works a better starting
point, but all listeners will find this recording engaging.