Friday, June 05, 2020

Paavo Järvi records Olivier Messiaen in Zurich & Erkki-Sven Tüür in Pärnu & Tallinn

Colin's Column
30.04.2020

Separate releases, that devoted to Messiaen (recorded in January & April last year) was timed to coincide with Paavo Järvi taking up the reins of the venerable Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich last October. If Messiaen’s music isn’t an obvious introduction to Järvi in Zurich (not being obvious is good though) then this collection of early and late Messiaen (1908-92) is a vivid demonstration of what this conductor and orchestra can achieve together (a Tchaikovsky cycle is on the cards). The first Messiaen track is also an audiophile winner, for the explosion of energy and angularity that is Le Tombeau resplendíssant (1931) reaches the ear without any inhibition, and the playing is fully charged and virtuosic, sensitive too in the serene if intense section (from 4’30), the latter featuring some notable woodwind contributions. Also from the early-1930s are Les Offrandes oubliées and L’Ascension, both brought off with sympathy and togetherness; in the latter the gleaming brass and rich-sounding strings are a further positive feature. From 1989 is Un sourire (A smile), in which Messiaen pays homage to one of his musical gods, Mozart, the piece being a study in calm and clarity, if not forgetting voluble woodwinds and clattering xylophone. One caveat: given Messiaen’s sameness of expression and gesture, despite these compelling performances, it’s best to put some space between each of these pieces. A release to treasure, however – on Alpha Classics 548.

With the youthful Estonian Festival Orchestra, Järvi celebrates the music of his and the players’ countryman Erkki-Sven Tüür (born 1959), another superbly recorded gift. Tüür’s continuous thirty-five-minute Ninth Symphony (Mythos, 2018) is dedicated to Järvi and proves to be of gripping quality, not least through atmosphere, the power of suggestion, and particularly imaginative scoring, a kaleidoscopic soundworld that keeps the ear very busy and gratified. This is music that paints pictures; given the composer offers no programme, although he says there is a narrative, what they are and why will be the preserve of any one listener; or, if you’re like me, there is enough to relish in the thrilling orchestral melee and forceful symphonic development. The other Tüür pieces here – Incantation of Tempest (written for Bamberg) and Sow the Wind… (for Paris) – both date from 2015. The former is short and rhythmic, a blazing concert opener, whereas the latter is a substantial essay in skirling textures and freefall invention that lead to a cataclysmic climax of tsunami proportions, the latter without any feeling of gratuitousness; rather the growth towards it feels organic. Highly recommended on Alpha Classics 595.

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