Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Riga Sinfonietta

Daniel Reuss   conductor


Ärkamine (Awakening)  (2011)

The Wanderer's Evening Song  (2001)

Insula deserta (1989)

Recorded June 2011

Ondine  ODE 1183-2


(---)Aufregende Musik für Chor und Orchester aus Estland von einem der interessantesten Komponisten der Gegenwart.

Burkhard Schäfer, ZEIT-ONLINE, 13. Dezember 2011, 'Schallplatte des Jahres 2011'


Gramophone 'Editor's Choice'

Erkki-Sven Tüür is surely one of the most consistently high-quality composers around. Even relatively early works, such as his Insula deserta for string orchestra, manage to blend the ecstatic and the ascetic in an utterly distinctive (hard not to add ‘Nordic’) way that still sounds fresh. When the bolder, more stylistically emancipated perspectives of his recent music meet the direct, almost vibrato-less timbres of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the results are more than musically impressive; they are spiritually stirring.

Tüür’s ability to transmute if not base metal into gold then at least the familiar into the magical is immediately evident, as the grandest piece on this disc,Awakening, begins with inchoate swirls that turn the tired old ‘tuning-up’ gesture into a real tuning-in. This 36‑minute cantata, commissioned for Tallinn as European Capital of Culture in 2011, intersperses 20th-century Estonian poetry with Latin texts related to Easter. The composer reminds us that ‘Awakening can be viewed as a lifelong process’. And without any resort to crowd-pleasing exhibitionism, he fulfils his aim of composing an ‘awakening to the light’. One of those same poets, Ernst Enno, is selected for the unaccompanied The Wanderer’s Evening Song (2001), another deeply felt piece, composed for and dedicated to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, who perform it here with luminous precision.

The booklet essay risks the claim that ‘the listener who encounters [Tüür’s music] is touched, overwhelmed, astonished, exalted, even rendered speechless by the suggestiveness of its sounds, images and the memories it evokes’. A hostage to fortune, perhaps, but for my money the claim is not so wildly exaggerated. Tüür’s shimmering, twinkling, yet at the same time edgy textures may be an acquired taste. I can only say that I feel greatly enriched for having acquired it.

David Fanning, Gramophone Febr.2012



Starting out in the world of progressive rock music and becoming a professional composer in the mid-1980s, Erkki-Sven Tüür’s music has been becoming ever more widely recognised, and ever more refined and luminous. This recording stands as a triumphant representative of this progression.

The most recent piece,Awakening, for mixed choir and chamber orchestra, was written as part of Tallinn’s multitudinous activity as European Capital of Culture 2011. The texts are a mixture of Estonian poetry and Latin liturgical words related to Easter. This is a highly approachable score, full of colourful harmonies and transparent textures, as well as having mysterious depths to go along with the more overtly joyful gestures. Some moments are comparable to the kinds of open musical expression of Americans such as John Adams and Steve Reich, and with the strong Estonian choral tradition pushing the piece onwards like wind in the sails of a galleon. This makes for compulsive listening from beginning to end. Tüür himself views awakening as a life-long process. “While composing this piece I lingered deep on the level of instincts and senses... From a musical perspective, this composition can also be viewed as an awakening to the light.” You can’t have an awakening to light without first experiencing the dark, and there are some central minutes of nocturnal chills before we make the final journey. There is no really well defined moment of awakening as such, as Tüür’s impressionistic writing keeps us guessing if we’re looking for a point of climax. The final coda in the last few minutes has some of the most sublime choral writing you could ever wish to hear. By avoiding corny stereotypes and going back in onto the resources of his own past work, Tüür has created a work which is tremendous in its effect.

The Wanderer’s Evening Songfor mixed choir was written for the 20thanniversary of the Estonian Philharmonic Choir and its founder, Toñu Kaljuste. This is a narrative of the wanderer who, to quote Gerhard Lock’s booklet notes, “is bewitched by the sombre silence of the northern woods [and is] longing for home.” This piece is also concerned with a fascination with light and an approach towards blissful ecstasy, using a mixed combination of the romantic poetry of Ernst Enno to create a remarkable journey. Close harmonies, dramatic dissonance and beautifully ethereal atmosphere make this another very special work.

Going backwards in time the final work is the oldest:Insula deserta, which is the string orchestra piece which marked Tüür’s international breakthrough. This has appeared on CD before, including as part of the Virgin Classics ‘Searching for Roots’ series, in this case with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi (Virgin Classics 7243 5 61993-2, 2002). There is little to choose between this version and Daniel Reuss’s as both are excellent, though the Sinfonietta Riga has a closer, more detailed and intimate feel. Exploring “the relationship between fragility and power” is a driving force in the piece, which unites and fragments the orchestra in a variety of ways, punching dramatically or giving voice to the different sections and individual voices within fields of sound.

This release represents a genuine cross-section of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s work, but is by no means a catch-all compilation. If you are new to his expressive and compelling work then I would hope it might be a springboard for discovering more of his pieces, such as the Architectonics series, and an extensive catalogue to be found on the ECM label.

Domini Clements,  Febr. 12. 2012


Awakening, Erkki-Sven Tüür's large-scale choral piece, was first performed earlier this year as one of the commissions for Talinn's year as a European capital of culture. The texts are taken from a range of Estonian poets, interspersed with extracts in Latin from the Easter liturgy, to evoke the sense of springtime rebirth and renewal. Much of the choral writing is restrained and unaccompanied, with the chamber orchestra supplying punctuation and sometimes discreet support. Beautifully delivered by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under Daniel Reuss, it's a poised, rather austerely beautiful piece, in which Tüür's characteristically dense proliferations emerge only in the instrumental writing. The a cappella settings of Ernst Enno in 2000's The Wanderer's Evening Song inhabit an equally delicate soundworld to evoke a similar sense of wonder at the natural world's beauties, while the string-orchestra Insula Deserta, from 1989, in which Arvo Pärt seems to be joined in unholy alliance with Iannis Xenakis, was the piece that really put Tüür on the international map.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian 22. 12. 2011


Like many of the Scandinavian and Baltic composers of the late 20th and 21st century, Tüür's music is characterized by a generous expansiveness, an eclectic harmonic language that draws willing listeners in, and an organic structure that's suggestive and evocative of natural processes. Like the work of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, which it resembles in some ways, it is smart, appealing music that should engage listeners open to new sounds. Ärkamine (Awakening), written in 2011, is the most substantial work on the album, a 36-minute piece for mixed choir and chamber orchestra. Using Latin texts related to Easter interspersed with Estonian poetry that deals with the human yearning for higher spiritual awareness experienced through immersion in the natural world, it weaves together idiomatic choral writing with radiant contemporary orchestral colors. The Wanderer's Evening Song, an unaccompanied choral work, takes its texts from an assortment of poems by Estonian writer Ernst Enno that also address the interconnectedness of nature and spirituality. Its beginning reflects the meditative atmosphere of twilight using imagery of a northern forest, but it progresses toward a surging ecstasy of a soul's awakening, expressed in music of tremendous excitement, that recalls the powerful choral pulsing in Reich's The Desert Music. Daniel Reuss draws gorgeous performances from the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir andSinfonietta Riga, who sing and play with sumptuous tone and spacious expressiveness. Ondine's sound is full, warmly detailed, and realistically present. Highly recommended for fans of new orchestral and choral music.

Stephen Eddins,   



Tallinn ist in diesem Jahr „Europäische Kulturhauptstadt". Aus diesem Grunde erhielt Erkki-Sven Tüür den Auftrag zu einem neuen Werk, das er Ärkamine (Erweckung oder Auferstehung) nannte. Textstellen von Ernst Enno (1875-1934) und Juhan Liv (1864-1911), dazu der 24. Vers aus Psalm CXVIII, die liturgische Osterbotschaft sowie etwas von den Gegenwartsautoren Jaan Kaplinski und Doris Kareva bilden das Material für den gemischten Chor, der die bald vierzigminütige Bestellung mit vielem Anstand serviert. Die raffiniertesten Klangwirkungen und die tatsächlich „schönen" Phasen stehen allerdings im Gegensatz zu den Figuren des begleitenden Kammerorchesters, dessen oftmals arg aufdringliches Schwirren und Pfeifen nach etwa einer Viertelstunde eher einschläfernd wirken wollte, wenn man nicht immer wieder von den sausenden Flötengirlanden daran erinnert würde, dass noch lange nicht Schluß ist. Begreiflich, dass Ärkamine kurz nach der Premiere im Frühjahr auch schon aufgenommen und sofort auf CD herausgebracht wurde – die Halbwertzeit solcher Termingeschäfte ist oft genug enorm kurz.

Die Auferstehung findet erst danach statt. Rändaja ohtulaul (Wanderers Nachtlied) für Chor a cappella aus dem Jahre 2001, wiederum auf Texte des bereits genannten Ernst Enno, bietet eine musikalische Kurzweil und Vielfalt, in die man sich wahrhaftig verlieben kann. Gleich die glockenartigen Einsätze der Stimmen – ein wenig im Stile der Chordettes und ihres „Mr. Sandman" –, die eigenwilligen „close harmonies" in Kombination mit quasi kirchlichen, eher orthodoxen als römischen Rezitationstönen, rhythmische Strecken, die die ganze Begeisterung des Komponisten am eigenen Einfall verraten, die formale Durchschaubarkeit und insgesamt jener hinreißende Klang, der fest in der großen estnischen Chortradition verankert ist: ein reines, völlig ungetrübtes Vergnügen – wie übrigens auch der abschließende Welterfolg des jungen Tüür, die Insula deserta für Streichorchester aus dem Jahre 1989, eine recht individuelle funkensprühende Tontraubenlese, bei der sich die Sinfonietta Riga noch einmal nachdrücklich ins Zeug gelegt hat.

Rasmus van Rijn, Klassik Heute 21. 12. 2011