Erkki-Sven Tüür: Exodus

Isabelle van Keulen, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

CD18,90 out of print

Third ECM recording by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. The Violin Concerto, written for Isabelle van Keulen, and the two orchestral works “Aditus” and “Exodus” are world premiere recordings. All are powerful experiences, reflecting the new physicality of Tüür’s compositions. Major performances of all three works have taken place in 2003, including the Violin Concerto at the London Proms (a major success). Tüür’s music continues to gain critical and popular acclaim, and this release is eagerly anticipated.

Featured Artists Recorded

May 2002, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Original Release Date


  • Concerto for violin and orchestra
    (Erkki-Sven Tüür)
  • 1I17:18
  • 2II12:07
  • 3III05:26
  • 4Aditus (for orchestra) (2000, rev. 2002)
    (Erkki-Sven Tüür)
  • 5Exodus (for orchestra) (1999)
    (Erkki-Sven Tüür)
Fono Forum, Stern des Monats
Tüür’s compositions have a wild, inventive edge, bringing together two utterly opposed styles – minimalism and modernism – and blending them or building dramatic tensions between them in a way so natural that it has to be heard to be believed. Isabelle van Keulen tackles the virtuosic Violin Concerto with an awe-inspiring combination of grit and fragility. In the first movement, the image she conjures at times is that of a wild bird trying to escape the thick forest of orchestral undertow; at others, she’s caught up in the swelling orchestral tread. She coaxes ever-increasing beauty from the slowly building slow movement, the climax dynamic yet with a brittle edge and her edgy, taut control of the final movement had me longing for more. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Järvi is warm, muscular and responsive, giving full rein to Tüür’s imaginative pull and flow. The recording quality is fresh and spacious throughout. The orchestral works are equally compelling: the witty and expressive “Aditus” and the dramatic “Exodus”.
Catherine Nelson, The Strad
For some years now Erkki-Sven Tüür has been routinely described as the leading Estonian composer. With this disc he not only justifies that label but lays claim to wider recognition. Composed in 1998, his 35-minute three-movement Violin Concerto launches straight in with manic arpeggiati from the soloist that would not be out of place in a concerto by Ligeti - except that the gestures are more for the sake of expressive immediacy than for virtuoso game-playing. ... If anything the strongest affinity I detect is with Per Nørgård; not just because of the spiralling patterns, the occasional microtones and the metaphors of light and dark that Tüür's textures bring to mind, but because like the Dane he has become progressively more interested in the in-between processes of his music, rather than in its individual ideas. That makes for challenging listening; but when the sense of continuity and purpose is so strong, the rewards are great. This is music that is exhilaratingly open to experience, without ever lapsing into silliness or cheap thrills.Enormous responsibility is placed on the soloist, and Isabelle van Keulen shoulders it superbly. Both here and in the two equally recent orchestral studies (of which "Exodus" brings strong reminders of Tüür's early activities as a rock musician) Paavo Järvi has the CBSO playing as though the music has always been in their blood. The recording captures the full range of Tüür's orchestral colours, and the booklet includes an illuminating interview with the composer as well as helpful descriptive notes.
David Fanning, Gramophone
Die Musik beginnt explosionsartig mit einem disharmonisch gesetzten Orchesterschlag, um dann unmittelbar in eine 64stel Bewegung der Geige umzuschlagen. Diese nervös aufscheinenden, sich blitzartig abwechselnden musikalischen Temperamente, dieses Wechselspiel von fließender Bewegung und vertikal gesetzter Statik ist bestimmend für Erkki-Sven Tüürs Musik. Tatsächlich haben wir es hier mit einer atemraubenden Produktion zu tun: Nicht nur die Faktur der Kompositionen überzeugt, auch die kompromisslose Interpretation von Paavo Järvi und dem Birmingham Symphony Orchestra stimmt glücklich - vom solistischen Einsatz von Isabelle von Keulen einmal ganz zu schweigen. Tüür ist ein kluger Dramatiker; seine Musik berührt, ganz ohne die baltisch-skandinavischen Klischees großer Gefühligkeit zu bemühen.
Tilman Urbach, Fono Forum
Erkki-Sven Tüürs Violinkonzert ist ein Stück wunderschöner Musik mit vollem Programm: Die gehetzten Arpeggien, der innige Gesang der formidablen Solistin Isabelle van Keulen paaren sich mit ganz großen orchestralen Steigerungen und Entladungen, Unisono-Streichern, dicken Blechbläserakkorden, auch stillen introvertierten Klangfeldern, worin altes Melos umgarnt wird. Tüür realisiert eine widerspenstige formale Dramaturgie, der auf seltsame Weise nichts Schroffes anhaftet, weil Kontrastwirkungen stets organisch vermittelt erscheinen – was mit dem City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra unter Paavo Järvi zu eindrucksvoller Wirkung gelangt.
Michael Kunkel, Basler Zeitung
“There’s something almost physical about the way in which Tüür moves and shapes the sound masses that his textures generate, so that the music offers a variety of perspectives – on one level the intricate construction offers constantly changing patterns and arrays, on another the sheer weight of sound is sculpted into large-scale gestures, so that the ear switches from one to the other.” Andrew Clements’s description, in The Guardian, of Tüür’s “Exodus” can be applied, with no less justification, to the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and “Aditus”. There is a new physicality to Tüür’s music, the Estonian composer concurs: “This development started with the Cello Concerto (refer to the ECM album Flux, recorded 1998), and one of the main issues now is dealing with the energetic forces in music. All the different compositional tools employed – the different rhythmic patterns, and chord structures and harmonic progressions – are not aims in themselves but ways of forming and focussing the energetic development. I pay very much attention to moving between the different levels of energy – how the energy flows, how the inner drama is building. It’s something I’m working with very consciously for five or six years now.”

All three pieces on the present album are premiere recordings, made with the participation of the composer. Of the genesis of the Violin Concerto, Tüür says, “The very first idea was to build up a continuously changing relationship between the soloist and the orchestra. In the first movement the soloist makes a statement that the orchestra picks up, and changes it in a rather unexpected direction. Then the violin starts again, and again the orchestra picks up the material and transforms it in a different way. It’s always a kind of surrealistic treatment and this was the conceptual basis. And having made my choices about material – scales, rows and harmonic progressions – I almost always followed my spontaneous imagination in the writing I never had a wish to write a concerto for virtuoso soloist where the orchestra is providing accompaniment. The music is always filtered through the orchestra when it returns to the soloist. It’s always developed at a different level.”

The concept is well served by Isabelle van Keulen, whose differentiated dynamic attack illuminates both the subtleties and the power of the music. Tüür first met the Dutch violinist in 1997 during performances of his “Architectonics 6” at the Lockenhaus Festival, and praises her continuing commitment to the Violin Concerto - “It’s become very much her piece”.

“Aditus”, which Tüür has twice revised, is dedicated to the memory of one of the composer’s early mentors, Lepo Sumero. “It’s not so much a lamentation as a celebration of a great man. He was a very strong character – and a very good friend of mine. And given that his main output was orchestral music, the piece can be seen as a characteristic portrait. Lepo played a very important role in my life at the Music Academy in Tallinn in the early 70s. We listened to the widest range of music together. We talked about and analysed each other’s music – and these were very special insights into the nature of music-making.”
Paavo Järvi is the dedicatee of “Exodus”. Erkki-Sven Tüür and the conductor have a history of collaboration. Friends and fellow rock musicians 20 years ago in Estonia, they share a close understanding. Järvi’s become one of the most committed advocates of Tüür’s music, perhaps because he comprehends its inspirational sources, as well its structural concerns and the energy that animates it. “I am constantly amazed by the perfect balance between the intellectual and the emotional side of Tüür’s music”, the conductor says. Järvi’s 1997 performance of Zeitraum had fired the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with his enthusiasm and led to a new commission. Exodus begins “in a very dark but monolithic material, to be perceived as an elemental birth, and then through the wave-shaped development, spreads this energy to the air, getting the temperature so high that the music seems not only to melt but to evaporate. That was the main idea in terms of musical intensity.”
Erkki-Sven Tüür was born in Kärdla on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa in 1959. Largely self-taught, he studied percussion and flute at the Tallinn Music School from 1976 to 1980. Later, from 1980 to 1984, he studied composition with Jaan Rääts at the Tallinn Academy of Music and took private lessons from Lepo Sumera. Among Tüür's many awards is the Cultural Prize of the Republic of Estonia (1991 and 1996). Today he is a freelance composer based in Tallinn.
In 1979 Tüür founded a chamber-rock group, "In Spe", which soon became one of the most popular in Estonia. He functioned as composer, flutist, keyboard player and singer in this ensemble, whose integration of structured and improvised material was inspired by the examples of Frank Zappa and King Crimson.
With the onset of Perestroika Tüür's music was heard outside Estonia for the first time. After success in Finland in 1989 numerous international commissions followed, and Tüür has written works for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Helsinki Festival, American Waterways Wind Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, the Hilliard Ensemble, Cabaza Percussion Quartet, Estonian State Symphony Orchestra, David Geringas, Piano Circus, Frankfurt RSO, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and others.
His oeuvre comprises orchestral, concert and chamber music, oratorios, film scores and incidental music. His works have been performed at such festivals as Bang on a Can (New York), Border Crossings (Toronto), Musica (Strasbourg), Emerging Light (London), the Vale of Glamorgan Festival (Wales), Musica Nova Helsinki, the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, Wien Modern, and the festivals in Berlin, Huddersfield, Salzburg, Stockholm and Gstaad.
"Erkki-Sven Tüür's music 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." (Wolfgang Sandner in the liner notes to Tüür’s ECM debut Crystallisatio).
Born in Holland in 1966, Isabelle van Keulen began playing the violin at the age of six. She studied first at the Sweelinck Conservatoire in Amsterdam and then with Sandor Vegh at the Salzburg Mozarteum.

Isabelle van Keulen is firmly committed to performing contemporary music, and works by many living composers are an integral part of her repertoire. She gave the world première of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Violin Concerto with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Hugh Wolf in September 1999, and since then she has performed the work worldwide with such orchestras as the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Cincinnati, City of Birmingham and Danish National symphony orchestras. The London première will take place at the BBC Proms in August 2003 with the BBC Philharmonic and Paavo Järvi.

She has appeared with such orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, Tonhalle Zürich, London Philharmonic, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, NHK Symphony Tokyo and the Minnesota Orchestra. Conductors with whom she has worked include Riccardo Chailly, Thomas Dausgaard, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Paavo Järvi, Oliver Knussen, Sir Neville Marriner, Kent Nagano, Sakari Oramo, Peter Oundjian, Joseph Swensen, Osmo Vänskä, Hugh Wolff and David Zinman.

Chamber music is central to her music making, and in 1997 she founded her own mid-summer chamber music festival in Delft, Holland. Here she collaborates with such distinguished colleagues including Leif Ove Andsnes, Michael Collins, Håkan Hardenberger, Gidon Kremer, Vadim Repin, Heinrich Schiff and Tabea Zimmermann.

Paavo Järvi studied percussion and conducting at the Tallinn School of Music and then, in 1980, moved to the USA where he continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music and at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute with Leonard Bernstein.

Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from September 2001, Paavo Järvi previously held the posts of Principal Guest Conductor with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras.

A major champion of the works of Estonian composers, including Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Lepo Sumera and Eduard Tubin, Mr Järvi is Artistic Adviser of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Järvi is in great demand as a guest conductor and appearances have included the Philharmonia, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, London, Munich, Czech, Israel, St Petersburg and Berlin Philharmonics, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National de France, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, RAI Turin, Budapest Festival, Concertgebouw, NHK, Tokyo, Vienna and Sydney Symphony orchestras. In North America his engagements include Los Angeles Philharmonic (both in their subscription season and at the Hollywood Bowl), Houston, Detroit, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.