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Len Mullenger:

Erkki-Sven Tüür Symphony No.3; Cello Concerto ; Lighthouse for strings. David Geringas (cello) Radio Symphony Orchestra of Vienna, cond. Dennis Russell Davies. ECM New Series 1673 465 134-2 (63 mins)

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The Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür, now aged 40, is one of the more interesting of present day Baltic composers, for those not wedded to the minimalist ethos. His music covers a wide range and, sometimes almost simultaneously, he embraces tonality, atonality, serialism, ancient religious song and popular music, and he can at the same time be mathematical and schematic. He also has been a rock musician and has no difficulty in mixing idioms.

The third symphony, in two movements, lasts 28 minutes. Contextus 1 plays with the opposites of metronomic and free musics and their transformations in ever new context, and Contextus 2 has a vibraphone which 'surges into the texture to boost the energy of a gradually flagging process' and shows 'nostalgia towards the purity of triads' in romantic harmony. It is absorbing music to hear without preconceptions, celebrating diversity and demanding only the acceptance of disorder and challenging tensions between different attitudes to music which are usually kept separate.

The cello concerto throws the soloist in the deep end to wander in a surreal environment of clusters within a tonal centre, with rhythmic contrasts and a rich palette of timbres. It is cast in a single movement of 23 minutes, leading towards a romantic elegy of heart-warming simplicity. Lightouse for strings was commissioned for a Bach week in Ansbach and explores the relevance of the baroque age to our own.

ECM's presentation is austere and the liner notes (in English only!) are a little obscure. Tüür himself mistrusts written commentaries and eschews 'grandiose constructivist ideas'. His preoccupation is with 'the movement of energy and its transformation between diverse levels' and he believes in intuitive steps to bring a composition closer to a living organism. 'Some mystery must remain'.

Well played and recorded, one for the collector with an enquiring mind. I think we will hear much more of Tüür in the new decade, and he fits well into the present day tolerance of different musical idioms coexisting. Recommended.


Peter Grahame Woolf





Peter Grahame Woolf


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