Erkki-Sven Tüür: Flux

Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

David Geringas cello

Dennis Russell Davies conductor


Symphony No. 3

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra



Recorded July and August 1998

ECM New Series 1673


An impressive Third Symphony from one of contemporary music's most individual voices, the Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür



It looks as though news of the death of the symphony has been greatly exaggerated. Symphonies are appearing at a startling rate today, and their composers often talk enthusiastically about finding new ways of engaging with traditional Western symphonic thought - the idea would have been more or less anathema 20, even 15 years ago. Among the younger generation of would-be symphonists, Erkki-Sven Tuur (b.1959) is one of the most hope-inspiring. The first movement of his Third Symphony builds impressive momentum from the contrast of two types of music: one dogged and metronomic, the other free and apparently tempo-less. These eventually collide, producing an electrifying climax. I'm still not sure how successfully the second movement binds together its wildly diffuse elements - from Lutosyawskian modernism to quasi-Bachian chorale tune and lush tonal romanticism; but I'm looking forward to going back and finding out. This is clearly music of strong personality, integrity and confidence, with warmth as well as acerbity, directness as well as ingenuity.

The same could equally be said for the string fantasy Lighthouse, and still more for the Cello Concerto, though here the transition from modernism to romantic lyricism is easier to follow and harder to resist. Also appealing is the vigour of much of the writing, especially for the strings - sometimes recalling the great string works of Tippett (though never for very long). Like his Finnish near-neighbour and fellow symphonist Kalevi Aho, Erkki-Sven Tuur is plainly worth taking very seriously, and it's good to report that the performers on this disc do just that - hard to believe that conductor Dennis Russell Davies, cellist David Geringas and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra are new to this music; everything sounds authoritative and full of seasoned intensity. Excellent recordings too. A must for the curious, and for those who care about the future of the symphony.

Gramophone 1/2000  Stephen Johnson


The much lamented Alfred Schnittke would seem to have a logical successor in the Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür (b. 1959). This took me a while to figure out with a lot of careful listening (much the same way I eventually worked myself into the uniquely moving sound world of the great Russian composer), and at first hearing the music seem a hodgepodge of unrelated styles. What in fact seems to be happening is that Tüür is exploring just how close a variety of types of music actually are to one another and then using those stylistic similarities and differences as the source of development in his music. (...) This is indeed something new and powerful. I will be on the lookout for more, and can recommend this exceptionally well-recorded disc unreservedly. 

Fanfare  March/April 2000  John Story


Erkki-Sven Tüür is one of those contemporary composers who don't really belong to a particular school or style - he's just good. And despite the complexity and detailed expertise of his work, such as his two-movement Symphony No. 3, just released on Flux (ECM New Series), his music communicates in a direct, refreshing manner.

The Independent 3 Sept. 1999


Es sind die bisher wohl spannendsten Arbeiten, die wir von dem gerade 40-jährigen estnischen Komponisten auf CD kennen. Es prägt sich eine unverwechselbare, gleichsam post-polystilistische Handschrift aus, voller Innenspannung und voller dramatischer Energien. Farbig instrumentiert, nie ins abgeschmackt Spielerische abgleitend. Tüür zählt heute bereits fraglos zu den bedeutendsten baltischen Komponisten.

Neue Musikzeitung  Oct. 1999  Reinhard Schulz


Of the Eastern European symphonists, the 40-year-old Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür thus far appears to be among the most original, resourceful, and the least self indulgent. As with Alfred Schnittke, his two-movement Symphony No. 3 is a collage of musical imagery often with a sense of form that seems made up as it goes along. With Tüür, however, the character of that imagery is very much his own. While Schnittke gravitated towards dark, explosive, sardonic music, Tüür's imagery is much more crystalline, brighter in the timbre department and often kept buoyant by syncopated rhythms that suggest influences from bebop jazz. There are moments when Tüür simply seems out to dazzle, and they're so skillfully built that one is grateful rather than suspicious of them. You're also glad not to be burdened by the psychic bile one hears in so many of his colleagues. That doesn't mean there's anything lightweight about Tüür or that his music lacks poetic ambiguity. At its most dramatic and descriptive, the music is never literal, and the often-jarring juxtaposition of sounds and ideas maintains an abstractness that allows a new, personal interpretation with every listening. Though the Cello Concerto is written with Tüür's typical sense of eclecticism, the music's antecedents seem more obvious and less personal and its 23-minute, single movement length is a bit long to sustain such a soliloquy-like work. Commissioned by the Ansbach Bach Festival, Lighthouse has richly textured counterpoint perhaps inspired by the baroque era, but more than that is a highly atmospheric work that, to its credit, more readily suggests Sibelius at his snowiest. Given the excellent quality of the performances and sound, there's much worth exploring here.  David Patrick Stearns