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Erkki-Sven TÜÜR (b. 1959)
Salve Regina (2005)a [5:39]
Ardor (2001, rev. 2002)b [25:56]
Dedication (1990)c [7:00]
Oxymoron (2003)d [19:40]
Pedro Carneiro (marimba)b; Leho Karin (cello)c; Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann (piano)c; Vox Clamantisa; NYYD Ensemblead; Estonian National Symphony Orchestrab; Olari Elts (conductor)abd
rec. Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn, March 2003 (Ardor) and June 2006 (Dedication, Oxymoron), and Issanda Muutmise Church, Tallinn, June 2006 (Salve)
ECM NEW SERIES 1919 [58:32]

Next to his elder colleagues Tubin, Pärt, Sumera and Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür is probably the best-known and recorded Estonian composer of the younger generations. This is due to Finlandia and still more so to ECM, for this already the fourth all-Tüür record released by ECM. This latest instalment is mostly devoted to recent works composed between 2001 and 2005, while including a somewhat earlier work completed in 1990.
Dedication for cello and piano was written in memory of Kuldar Sink, who was – I must assume – one of the composer’s friends; the otherwise informative insert notes are silent on this. This short threnody is laid-out in several sections of hugely contrasted character separated by brief “breathing points” - some discreet playing inside the piano. A fine work for all its brevity and apparent simplicity.
As already mentioned, the other works are quite recent. Ardor is a concerto for marimba and orchestra laid-out in a traditional pattern. The first movement opens with a slow introduction leading into a main section full of contrasted episodes. The second, mostly slow movement is a static Nocturne with a couple of short-lived climaxes. The concerto ends with a lively, brilliant Toccata. Concertos for marimba are something of a rarity, although one may mention one by Milhaud (Op.278 – 1947), by Akira Miyoshi, Robert Kurka and one by Richard Rodney Bennett (1988), although I still have to hear the latter ones. As the present annotator rightly observes, the very nature of the marimba’s quickly decaying sound poses technical problems that have been expertly solved by Tüür. Ardor is a substantial work displaying considerable invention and imagination, and eventually entirely satisfying in purely musical terms. A worthwhile addition to a rather limited repertoire.
Oxymoron, subtitled Music for Tirol (sic), because it was commissioned by the Austrian town of Schwaz and partly inspired by “the Alps, that enormous ocean of congealed rocky waves” (the composer’s words), is scored for large mixed ensemble. The composer’s instrumental resourcefulness is again much in evidence in this brilliant, often imaginatively scored work; but I find it marginally less gripping than many other works by Tüür. To my mind, the music is lacking in direction and is rather rambling at times; this does not often occur in Tüür’s music.
The short Salve Regina is scored for small male choir and ensemble. It is conceived as a slow processional interrupted by “breathing points” punctuated by soft percussion and held notes on the positive organ. It ends with a soft bass drum stroke. There are some ritualistic elements in this work; but the music has very little of the so-called Baltic Holy Minimalism of Pärt. In fact, it proceeds slowly with much subtle variety rather than repeating itself in Pärt’s tintinnabulations. A short but eloquent piece that deserves to be heard.
These performances by musicians who have a long association with and understanding of Tüür’s music are all excellent. Carneiro, to whom Ardor is dedicated, plays marvellously throughout. The production is again up to the remarkable standards that one has come to expect from ECM: very fine recording and informative insert notes as well as a short introduction by the composer. Tüür’s is a distinctive voice in Estonian contemporary music, whose music now enjoys a highly deserved exposure.
Hubert Culot


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