Dame Evelyn Glennie percussion
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Estonian National Male Choir
Paavo Järvi conductor
Symphony No. 4 "Magma" for percussion and orchestra
Inquiétude du fini for mixed choir and orchestra
Igavik (Eternity) for male choir and orchestra
The Path and the Traces for strings
Virgin Classics 385 785-2
There is much of the cosmic in the work of Erkki-Sven Tüür. Worlds seem to shift and occasionally collide, and his monumental Fourth Symphony is inexorably compelling, not least thanks to the virtuoso percussion playing of Evelyn Glennie. A rather awesome disc.
Editor's Choice - October 2007
Music hewn from granite: the most rewarding Tüür collection to date?
Estonia’s best-known internationally orientated modernist has composed six symphonies (the latest having had its premiere earlier this year in Tallinn), among which the 30‑minute single-movement Fourth, dating from 2002 and subtitled Magma, is outstanding. Tüür’s style is essentially mobile-sculptural: which is to say that shifting sound-masses count for more than expressivity. Sibelius is a distant yet clear affinity, and Lutoslawski and the sonorism of the Polish school of the 1960s and ’70s supply something of the technical means. At its gentlest – as in the tinkling early stages of Magma – the effect resembles Oliver Knussen; at its toughest, Elliott Carter. Impersonal yet irresistible forces seem to guide the structure, while the orchestra builds up a succession of analogies to unpopulated landscapes and natural forces. Behind the sonic richness and the dazzling surfaces there is an ascetic instinct at work: a refusal to take easy, opportunistic paths and an immensely impressive traversal of craggier ones.
Though written for Evelyn Glennie, who takes the solo percussion part with superb aplomb, this really is a symphony rather than a flashy, beefed-up concerto. It stays just on that side of the divide everywhere except in the brief cadenza at approximately the half-way mark.
The other three works on this disc feel similarly substantial and born of inner necessity. The Path and the Traces is simply the finest recently composed piece I have heard for string orchestra, and each of the choral items is memorable, without sacrificing complexity. Tüür is currently well represented on CD, but this new disc strikes me as probably the most rewarding devoted to his music, no doubt partly because performances and recordings are first-class. If the prospect of challenging, granite-hewn musical invention has any appeal, then this is a must.
Gramophone 10/2007 David Fanning