Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Tõnu Kaljuste Conductor
Recorded June 1995
ECM New Series 1590
"Erkki-Sven Tüür's music," writes Wolfgang Sander, "sounds as if it had strolled through the history of music assimilating theoretical inspiration and practical experience along the way. Then it seems to have wrapped itself up in a cocoon, immune to the outside world, there to develop its own contours, as indicated by the abrupt contrasts. Tüür's music is realistic; it has confidence in its historical references, but it is removed." One could add that Tüür's "removal" from the international new music community was hardly his own choice: his compositional approach was established in an enforced political and geographical isolation. The same, of course, can be said for many of the composers from the former Soviet Union who, between them, have created music of enormous diversity. Tüür is impatient with the Western journalistic habit of bracketing together all post-Soviet composers as if they represented a recognizable "genre", while, at the same time, he acknowledges that every artist, whether he wishes it to be the case or not, is inevitably a product of his environment. Is his work, then, intrinsically "Estonian?" "Maybe there is something, related to the general 'Nordic' way of seeing the world, influenced by the specific geographical area, by how dark and short the days are in winter, and how light and short the nights are in summer."
Tüür's New Series debut opens with Archtectonics VI, written in 1992, a characteristically "rhetorical" work that pits quasi-minimal writing for strings against serial parts for flute, clarinet and vibraphone; serialism ultimately gains the upper hand in this particular debate. Passion (1993) for strings, which follows, builds from the slow filling of space with double bass and cellos in the lowest register to sound-clusters for violins in the high register. Illusion, a partner-piece for Passion and composed the same year, deconstructs a baroque motif. Wolfgang Sander describes it as a "disrupted litany... one hundred and eleven measures composed as if in rapture."
Crystallisatio (1995) for three flutes, campanelli, strings and live electronics, is particularly mysterious and beguiling. The sound potential of the flutes is subtly expanded by electronic processing and digital delay.
Requiem (1994) was written in tribute to Peeter Lilje, chief conductor of the Estonian State Orchestra, a close friend of the composer who died in 1993 at the age of 43. Tüür sets the text of the Catholic mass for the dead.