Erkki-Sven Tüür – Mythos | PAAVO JÄRVI


Estonian Festival Orchestra

Paavo Järvi  conductor

Symphony No 9 "Mythos" (2017)

Incantation of Tempest    (2014)

Sow the Wind...              (2015)

Recorded in July 2016 in Pärnu Concert Hall (Incantation of Tempest), January 2018 in Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn (Symphony No 9) & July 2019 in Pärnu Concert Hall (Sow the Wind...)

ALPHA595  released in March 2020

Diapason d’or de l’année 2020


Following Beethoven's landmark example and subsequent music history, the arrival of a ninth symphony carries a particular weight of expectation. In his Symphony No 9, Mythos, commissioned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018, Erkki-Sven Tüür rises magnificently to the challenge.

Cast in a single movement, this thrilling 35-minute work explores new pathways for the composer in an idiom entirely modern and his own while at the same time, inspired by Finno-Ugric mythology, delivering an emphatic testament to Estonian independence and national identity.

Both the symphony and 2015's Sow the Wind... - the other substantial work in this spirited live recording from the Estonian Festival Orchestra, conducted by Mythos dedicatee Paavo Järvi - are essentially abstract despite the programmatic suggestion of their titles. Both deploy techniques of continual transformation in Tüür's trademark quest for organic development. But where the earlier work builds motivic cells into self-described "whirlwinds", the symphony feels hewn from a single block of granite without sacrificing any richness of local colour or invention. Gestures unfold as if from the inside, imparting in beautifully controlled waves the profound elemental power that's also compressed into the accompanying short Incantation of Tempest.

Steph Power   BBC Music Magazine  June 2020

Performance *****

Recording      ****


(---) You may want to start backwards, with Sow the Wind … (2015), which despite not being ‘the symphony’ here is the most instantly satisfying manifestation of Tüür’s mature, arguably symphonic (and Nordic) working method: his use of a single gene or ‘source code’ which mutates and grows to fill the symphonic space and connect the dots.

The technical elements are reflected in the work’s concern with reckless human activity destroying the planet, heard in the gathering of small gusts into huge whirlwinds that tear the texture apart as driving, splintering rhythms threaten to derail the entire juggernaut but end up simply slamming it into a wall of silence. Some parallels exist with the actual symphony here, Tüür’s Ninth, commissioned by the Estonian government to mark the country’s centenary in 2018 (---) The culmination, hard-won thanks to the persistence of a looping upward scale, is one of peace. Tüür has always been generous enough to encourage individual responses to his music and I find it hard not to read this as Estonia’s journey to its current state of relative prosperity. The Estonian Festival Orchestra is a physical manifestation of that, and of Estonia’s new outward-looking optimism, and can rival its counterpart in Lucerne for reactivity, musicality, charisma and tone. All are apparent in the machinations of Incantations of Tempest (2015), commissioned by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra as an encore but used by the EFO as an opener. It is a muscular piece, minimalistic in concept only and another example of Tüür’s fascinating way with the orchestra.

Andrew Mellor   Gramophone   June 2020


(---)With these tumultuous frescoes, Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür confirms his place among the great Nordic symphonists (---) Paavo Järvi and his Estonian orchestra, precise and committed, highlight the countless facets of this broad symphony that is both narrative and abstract.

Patrick Szersnovicz    Diapason Magazin  April 2020


“Right now the composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür, who turned 60 last year is on his island home in the Baltic Sea. There are worse places to be in lockdown. But Erkki- Sven’s music has an uncanny ability to be its own thing. Huge orchestral statements in the nine symphonies he has composed so far, concertos, choral music and opera, all as distinctive as those Estonian seascapes. And yet his music is also connected to the currents of ideas of culture and politics that course through the rest of the world, all happening in mysterious ways. And these connections are there in the DNA of his compositions (---) but also in the boldness and extremity of music like “Sow the Wind.” This orchestral piece composed in 2015 was written from Erkki-Sven Tüür’s sense of impending darkness in the world, translated into this massive orchestral vortex (---)

Tom Service    BBC Radio 3, Music Matters  April 25 2020


“This next new thing brings us two great friends working together (---) Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Symphony No. 9 - the premiere recording from the forces for which it was written - the Estonian Festival Orchestra and the conductor to whom it is dedicated - Tüür’s old friend Paavo Järvi. It’s a hugely enjoyable piece, surging with life-force, the primordial ocean of sound at the start, giving away to orchestral’s fixed points, landmarks around which whirlwinds of sound take shape and then distort our horizons. The Estonian Festival Orchestra plays with passion, investing everything in the score and the recording is superb, not a detail goes unmissed. Every flicker of colour or every textural change resisters.”

Andrew MacGregor   BBC Radio 3, Record Review   April 18 2020


(---) Tüür’s continuous thirty-five-minute Ninth Symphony (Mythos, 2018) is dedicated to Järvi and proves to be of gripping quality, not least through atmosphere, the power of suggestion, and particularly imaginative scoring, a kaleidoscopic soundworld that keeps the ear very busy and gratified. This is music that paints pictures; given the composer offers no programme, although he says there is a narrative, what they are and why will be the preserve of any one listener; or, if you’re like me, there is enough to relish in the thrilling orchestral melee and forceful symphonic development. The other Tüür pieces here – Incantation of Tempest (written for Bamberg) and Sow the Wind... (for Paris) – both date from 2015. The former is short and rhythmic, a blazing concert opener, whereas the latter is a substantial essay in skirling textures and freefall invention that lead to a cataclysmic climax of tsunami proportions, the latter without any feeling of gratuitousness; rather the growth towards it feels organic. Highly recommended on Alpha Classics 595.

Colin Anderson    April 30  2020


(---) Above all, and not all of Tüür’s music is like this, there’s something ‘world-building’ about this symphony. It’s as if we’re listening to a sonified process of organic creation happening in real-time, a mix of gradual and violent stages of development in which new ideas bubble up and emerge from the preceding ones, some of which don’t particularly go anywhere or do very much before they too become re-evolved. i mentioned before the “weirdly grotesque slow descending brass line beneath a playful surface”, and it sounds yet more weird and grotesque in this recording (beginning around 17 minutes in); it’s an incredibly unusual and unnerving effect that i find spine-tingling every time i hear it. The subsequent behaviour of the horns, lurking at first before projecting strange dissonant judderings, is similarly unsettling.

Despite lasting only a little over half an hour, Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Symphony No. 9 is easily one of the most powerfully arresting new symphonies i’ve heard in many, many years. i can’t wait until he unleashes No. 10.

Simon Cummings   July 29   2020


(---) The symphony starts from 'primordial chaos', with Tüür gradually creating a sense of order through an emerging string figure which develops.
But even in gurgling chaos, Tüür's writing is full of colour and texture, and the timbres throughout the work are striking. In his programme note, Tüür is reluctant to give a programmatic description for the piece, yet there is very much a sense of Tüür using the orchestra to create a world, complex, richly textured and dynamic.

The symphony is in a single over-arching movement, with a strong sense of structures developing out of primitive material. Yet throughout, there is an underlying feeling of power surging, complex string textures take place over burgeoning waves of brass sound, and there is a sense of excitement, the stirrings of something being created. As the work progresses, we become aware of Tüür gradually bringing musical fragments into focus to create something new, the dramatic textures coalesce at the end of the work into a striking new sonic world.

The result is a powerfully striking new work, a world away from any sort of nationalistic tub-thumping, and a major addition to the symphonic repertoire. (---)

Paavo Järvi premiered Sow the Wind... in Paris in 2015 with the Orchestra de Paris. The title comes from a passage in the book of Hosea, 'For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind', and the work is an evocation of the effects of reckless human activity whether it be climate change, mass migration of people or extremist movements.

Here we have complex and dramatic textures,  with Tüür again seeming to create a complete world. The work opens with what the composer describes as a 'tidal wave' which washes by, leaving an evocative violin solo and a sense of evolving drama. Again, the musical writing is full of wonderful sonorities and textures. (---)

Robert Hugill   30 March  2020


(---) For Tüür, “composing a symphony means creating a complex and complete world in all its diversity”, and you won’t find too many connections in this single-movement piece with ‘classical’ symphonies of the past. Tüür’s idiom is one that respects convention but stretches its boundaries, playing with the vast possibilities in a large orchestra but for instance also using microtonality on occasion to heighten certain effects. Tonality is by no means absent but there is an ever-present addition of chromatic colours, the harmonic progressions of which deliver shifting vistas and soundscapes rather than cadential phrasing. Striking sonorities and drama in action and reaction take us on a journey through uneasy but by no means ugly spaces. The density of events in this traversal grows as the symphony progresses, musical elements piling on top of each other in a counterpoint that retains a cloud-like identity while moving through a musical storm that relents without offering repose. The listener is an ‘observer’ whose perception of this symphonic world is its reflection, and “the observer’s position is revealed during the final minutes of the composition, after the increasingly fragmentary and intensifying development leads to a culmination.” This culmination is in some ways a return to the enigma of the opening, but in the end takes on an aspect of beauty; perhaps that of a tentatively verdant garden, but one that is not without its atmosphere of menace from outside forces.

The compact Incantation of Tempest was originally written to function as an encore, but ultimately became used as an overture. This is a piece with the feel of a symphonic movement, but one which has a cinematic feel: not in the usual Hollywood sense, but certainly with an ‘action sequence’ sense of visual motion and suspense.

Sow the Wind… takes its title from that famous Biblical phrase, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” This is a direct reference to “reckless human activity” of many kinds, the consequences of which are being increasingly felt by today’s newer generations. As with Mythos there is no claim for this as a narrative reflection of concrete events, but there are ‘whirlwind’ moments that relate to the text. The form as a whole has a complex musical architecture that ultimately results in the orchestra growing into a giant machine that “seems to smash against an invisible wall and vanish” by way of conclusion. The eventful traversal towards that final smash generates passages of considerable eloquence, and this is by no means a ‘crash-bang-wallop’ kind of work even with the rock/jazz drums towards the end. All of these pieces demand focus and attention from the listener, but always reward engagement with music of substance and stirring content. (---)

Dominy Clements    April 2020


(---) Tüür’s progression from primordial gloom to activity and order is daringly sustained; that the first real sense of movement only happens eight minutes in doesn’t undermine how gripping the long spells of stasis are. The scoring is assured, Tüür’s brass and percussion writing especially striking. It sounds fabulous in this live recording from dedicatee Paavo Järvi and his Estonian Festival Orchestra, the visceral excitement of the faster sections thrilling. There’s a gorgeous passage for divisi strings a few minutes before an emphatic closing statement, a sense of unity and togetherness hinted at. Presumably the quiet final bars are a reminder that any sense of unity, of national togetherness, is a fragile one.

Tüür’s brief Incantation of Tempest is a blast, one of a number of pieces commissioned by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, the brief being to provide contemporary encores. Its four minutes whizz past, the earthy dance figurations and brassy fanfares allowing Järvi’s players to let rip. And what a cool ending, an unsettling soft percussion chord undermining any sense of triumph. Sow the Wind... is more substantial, its little flurries of sound transmogrifying into more menacing outbursts, the music’s organised chaos in part “suggesting the consequences of reckless human activity.” A ticking cowbell and trumpet imply that time is running out. There’s a nice nod to Tüür’s prog-rock past when the drum kit kicks in, and another disquieting coda. It's all good. Highly recommended.

Graham Rickson  Classical CDs Weekly   27 June  2020


(---) Un « noyau thématique » reposant sur des intervalles fondamentaux, comme la quarte ou la quinte, émerge progressivement de ce magma informe. Le tableau s’anime ensuite sans cesse davantage : le contrepoint se densifie, les textures sonores s’épaississent ; les cordes déroulent des tremolos d’harmoniques, les cuivres s’adonnent aux micro-intervalles. Plus loin, Tüür crée la surprise en exploitant adroitement la stéréophonie de l’orchestre dans un passage où des arpèges accidentés résonnent en écho aux premiers et seconds violons. L’effervescence sans cesse revigorée des timbres, les continuelles oppositions de registres, les incessants étirements et resserrements d’ambitus, les perpétuels changements de rythmes, le foisonnement des fusées chromatiques et autres tourbillons, ne sont pas loin de faire de cette symphonie une incarnation musicale de la dynamique des fluides. (---)

Olivier Vrins   Crescendo Magazine    L’énergie éolienne selon Erkki-Sven Tüür   7 August  2020


(---) Paavo Järvi heeft - u heeft het in deze recensie al kunnen lezen - veel ervaring opgedaan met het werk van Tüür. Ze zijn ook goede vrienden. Deze grandioze uitvoeringen leggen er onomstotelijk getuigenis van af.

Aart van der Wal    Opus Klassiek    March 2020


Erkki-Sven Tüür's Mythos, which occupies more than half of the present recording, was composed to mark the 100th anniversary of the Estonian Republic in 2018. It's not strictly a programmatic work, but online listeners may wish to seek out Tüür's description of the music: the opening, which seems to arise out of the formless void in the manner of Mahler (absolutely a major influence on this composer), actually is inspired by sea creation myths of the Finno-Ugric peoples. The work is a tour de force of orchestration, with sonorities that sometimes sound electronic even though only conventional instruments are used. Tüür's handling of the winds is especially ingenious; among many examples, consider the Star Trek transporter-like sound that appears at 23:00 and 24:00, and underlies the action over much of the next several minutes. These are flawlessly rendered by the Estonian Festival Orchestra under Paavo Järvi, and in general, it would be hard to imagine a more idiomatic and committed performance than the ones these works receive here. The textures are quite complex but are completely natural and intelligible in this recording. The other two works on the album, the short Incantation of Tempest and the ecologically oriented Sow the Wind, fit with the theme of chaos and are also memorable. The three pieces were recorded at different places and times, but they hang together remarkably well. (---)

James Manheim