Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Erkki-Sven Tüür

The Atrtdesk

Erkki-Sven Tüür: Symphony no 7 'Pietas', Piano Concerto Laura Mikkola (piano), NDR Choir, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi (ECM)
Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür's 2006 Piano Concerto sounds spectacular on this ECM disc. It's the sense of air, the colour – this is extravagantly scored music, but Tüür always gives his ideas space to blossom and breathe. Not that there's any indulgence and waffle either; a strength of the work is its concision, and after 20 minutes you're left wishing the work was longer. The years that Tüür spent as keyboardist and composer for the Tallinn prog-rock outfit In Spe must have helped him think quickly and avoid indulgence. The concerto's three-movement structure is easy to assimilate – the slow, primeval opening music smartly realised. Soloist Laura Mikkola slowly summons a recalcitrant orchestra into life, starting with a thunderous pedal C. Her playing is beyond reproach. At times it's as if there's a third hand helping out – a brilliant passage four minutes into the opening section has a high staccato one-note pattern ringing out over fiendish swoops and swirls in left hand.  Tüür's percussion writing is spectacular, especially in the groovier finale. And he leaves us wanting more; the concerto's coda a haunting, bleached landscape.
Tüür's choral Symphony no 7 is subtitled Pietas – in Paul Griffiths' words, “the symphony, as voiced by its voices, is prayer.” That the vocal sections are sung in English translation does highlight the occasional banalities of texts which could have been extracted from The Little Book of Calm. The thoughts of the great Jimi Hendrix sit a little uneasily alongside those of Mother Teresa and Saint Augustine. Somehow it all hangs together though – the luminous orchestral textures offer consistent pleasure, and Tüür's choral writing is assured and idiomatic. Excellent performances and superb engineering.

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