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Erkki-Sven TÜÜR (b. 1959)
Concerto for violin and Orchestra (1998)
Aditus (2000, rev. 2002)
Exodus (1999)
Isabelle van Keulen (violin)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Recorded: Symphony Hall, Birmingham, May 2002
ECM NEW SERIES 1830 (472 497-2) [61:09]

Tüür’s Violin Concerto, dedicated to the composer’s father, is a substantial work in three movements, although this is as far as comparison with the traditional concerto goes. The first – and, by far, the most complex – movement must be unique. During the first half of this long movement, the violin’s figurations are constantly interrupted and wildly imitated by the orchestra, in a sort of surreal game. Halfway through the movement, the soloist manages to find his/her way out of the apparent chaos that prevailed up to that point. After a fiery climax, the violin launches a sinuous melody, now supported by the orchestra that – at long last – seems to play the game in a fair way. The first movement ends with a huge sound-wave, out of which divisi cellos and basses softly emerge to introduce the slow movement. The soloist spells out a deceptively simple scalic phrase, quickly developing into a warmly lyrical melody. At first appeased and dreamy, the music gains considerable momentum leading to a blazing climax abruptly giving way to a restatement of the opening section. It also glances back briefly at the violin’s figurations from the first movement. The final movement, although rather unconventional, is a lively, often brilliant Rondo displaying formidable energy. In an interview printed in the insert notes, the composer mentions that he originally planned to have two movements only (not surprisingly, however, since both the Second and Third Symphonies are also in two movements), but that he eventually felt that he had to add a third, brilliant final movement.

Aditus was composed in memory of Tüür’s mentor and friend the late Lepo Sumera. The piece evokes Sumera’s ebullient personality, and thus deliberately eschews elegiac pathos, although it ends with a tender, other-worldly coda.

A commission from the CBSO, Exodus is a large-scale symphonic movement of some considerable substance. The title obliquely refers to the Exodus episode from the Bible, but also – on a more general level – to each individual’s life journey, from birth to death. The music is appropriately on an epic scale, varied, going through a wide range of emotions and conflicting moods before dissolving into the void. Exodus is an impressive monolith of forceful energy, at times verging on violence, displaying a remarkable orchestral mastery as well as an irrepressible sense of direction, which characterises much of this composer’s music. In a previous review, I compared Tüür to Mark-Anthony Turnage whose Silent Cities and Uninterrupted Sorrow display a similar formal and emotional outlook.

I will not repeat my earlier comments about Tüür’s music. These pieces, superbly played and beautifully recorded, confirm this composer’s growing status as the most prominent Estonian composer of his generation. Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot

see contemporaneous concert Review by Christopher Thomas

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