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Erkki-Sven TÜÜR (b. 1959)
Symphony No.9 “Mythos” (2017) [34:11]
Incantation of Tempest (2014) [4:17]
Sow the Wind... (2015) [21:19]
Estonian Festival Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
rec. 2016-19, Pärnu Concert Hall; Estonian Concert Hall, Tallinn
ALPHA 595 [60:06]

Tüür's Symphony No.9 Mythos was commissioned by the Estonian government to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Republic of Estonia. It is dedicated to Paavo Järvi, who conducted the first performances in Tallinn and in Brussels. Tüür writes, “The processes that lead to the surge of national consciousness and independence always have deep roots in abundant mythological material and these underlying layers are what I wished to hint at in my composition. Hence the title... I thought of the various stories of creation, including the water bird creation myths of the Finno-Ugric tribes.”

Nevertheless, the composer insists that the music is not meant to be programmatic, so the listener is free to imagine his or her own vision - although episodes in the course of the work may be freely associated with these often long-forgotten myths to which the composer refers in his notes. The long opening passage slowly emerging from the depths of the orchestra and expanding in long lines certainly suggests the awakening of the world from a formless mass into a progressively more delineated universe. One could be forgiven for thinking of all the creation myths that exist almost everywhere in the world - the Finnish Kalevala or its Estonian pendant, for example. That sustained opening passage unfolds out of primeval chaos until some sort of “big bang” is reached, releasing the energy of a newly-created earth. This is followed by more varied, animated and, at times, more lightly-scored episodes leading into another busy section. The music eventually calms down, leading into a calmer epilogue and the symphony ends peacefully. It is a splendid piece of music by any account and I find it to be one of his finest recent works. As one might expect, the piece's scoring for large orchestra is masterly and brilliant; nor does the musical material lack substance.

Tüür's orchestral mastery is again much in evidence in the short but impressive Incantation of  Tempest. This short orchestral encore was commissioned by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra as part of their Encore! programme aimed at providing new music suitable for encores, but it could function as a rousing concert opener as well. It was written in memory of the late Veljo Tormis and I suspect (although I might be wrong) that the Estonian title of the piece (“Tormiloit”) is not as innocent as it may seem. Again, this is a brilliantly scored concert opener or orchestral encore which pays a deeply felt homage to Tormis in spite of, or because of, its concision.

Sow the Wind... is on the other hand yet another substantial orchestral work premiered by the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi. The title is derived from Hosea: “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” Again, the music is not programmatic or descriptive, but the composer's notes do nevertheless suggest that some underlying ideas having informed the music, such as climate change, mass migration, the surge of extremist movements and the like. (To these one might now add the present pandemic.) Thus, bearing all this in mind while listening to this powerfully energetic and almost furious music, one realises that its musical imagery, as it were, is a most urgent warning to all concerned. However, though mostly fast, the music goes through many contrasting moods so that any monotony or single-mindedness is cleverly avoided. The final build-up eventually “seems to smash against an invisible wall and vanish” (the composer's words). The abrupt ending undoubtedly leaves most questions unanswered, hopefully not for good.

Tüür's discography is now rapidly expanding, which – I think – says much for the importance of his achievement both locally and internationally. Moreover, he is blessed by an ever-growing number of committed champions who have enabled his music to travel around the world. His old friend Paavo Järvi conducts superbly committed readings of these fine works and the young Estonian Festival Orchestra respond with equal commitment. The programme is also well-served by some excellent recording which catches the entire dynamic spectrum displayed in the music. In short, a superb release with much to offer; the Ninth Symphony is a must-hear.

Hubert Culot

Previous review: Dominy Clements



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