Epitaph / Hommage a Anton Bruckner



2222 6331 Timp. 2 perc. Grand Organ (ad lib.) Str.

Fp: June 10th 2023 Basilica of the Monastery St. Florian, Austria

Bruckner Orchester Linz, cond. Markus Poschner

Commissioned by: Oberösterreichische Stiftskonzerte

Publisher: Edition Peters

Program note
“Epitaph" is like a concentrate of my subjective Bruckner impressions. Shortly before the end, a rhythmic quote from the second movement of the 9th Symphony also appears, this is the only concrete clue.
In other respects, it is possible to perceive certain “Brucknerisms” in the orchestral treatment in the broadest sense, but always through my personal prism.





2222,2200,Timp+1, P-no, Strings

Fp: Kymi Sinfonietta, conductor Olari Elts

April 3rd 2019, Kotka Concert Hall. Kotka, Finland

Commissioned by: Kymi Sinfonietta, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

Program note

Had my father, as a boy during World War II, not stumbled upon the overture Coriolanus by L. van Beethoven on the radio, I probably would not have become a composer at all. Apparently, this experience astonished him utterly and completely ­– he had never known that this kind of music could even exist. From that moment he consciously started searching for information about who this Beethoven really was and what else he had composed. This search led him to gradually discover the entire heritage of classical music; by the time I was born, he had a very impressive record collection for his time. And this is how I grew up – in a world of sound created by the compositions my father constantly listened to.

Before I started composing Phantasma I heard from conductor Olari Elts – who is an important catalyst for composing this piece – that many orchestras have inquired whether I could somehow create a “link with Beethoven”. And considering the above, this link was born in a very natural way: as an opportunity to repay a debt of gratitude and as an homage to L van B.

A specific motif from Coriolanus appears as stealthily as a ghost and disperses as mysteriously as it appeared. As it originates from the supporting structure, a listener who does not know the composition inside out might not even recognize it. However, it is not a goal in itself.
At first, the dramaturgy of music is born from the relations among separate chords, their gradual fusion, the onset of movement and the constant growth of its rhythmical intensity. Another hint – by the time the micro-interval clusters appear in the wind section, the phantom (Phantasma) has arrived. And this presence will be highlighted by certain punctuated rhythmic patterns that I normally do not use.

Erkki-Sven Tüür

translation: Pirjo Jonas


Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Olari Elts   Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn  4 October 2019


(---) these three works had elements of the same Tüür thumbprints - woodwind chord clusters, "bending" notes especially awe-inspiring in the brass, a state of becoming that moves in waves, slow or faster according to context, something of an arch form with a quiet coda. At the same time, the gestural ideas that emerge - the essential "hooks" that stop this all just being the familiar contemporary "process" - are distinctive to each. Apparoaching Phantasma, first on the programme, without trying to glean the sense of the (Estonian) note, I sensed something familiar but not quite recognisable. As it turned out, this is partly Tüür's homage to his father, whose hearing Beethoven's Coriolan Overture on the radio as a child turned him into a classical music lover and record collector, and thus by association his son into choosing to become a composer, and partly due to Olari Elts's suggestion that he might write a work with a link to Beethoven. It's reassuring to learn that the composer regards the quotation as subliminal. (---)

David Nice   19 December 2019

Sow the Wind...



3333, 4331, Timp + 3, Pianoforte, Strings

Fp: Orchestre de Paris, conductor Paavo Järvi

September 20th 2015  Philharmonie, Paris. 

Commissioned by: Orchestre de Paris & Wiener Symphoniker

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: Mythos  ALPHA595   Estonian Festival Orchestra  cond. Paavo Järvi  (2020)

Program note

Sow the Wind...

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. Hosea 8-7

Climatic changes, the massive migration of people, the surge of various extremist movements and several other irreversible processes that increasingly weigh upon our minds are, in many ways, consequences of reckless human activity. In other words, the wind has been sown despite the potential repercussions, and consequently the whirlwind is often reaped by the following generations.

I created my composition with these thoughts in mind; however, this is by no means a musical narrative of the above events, i.e. a “programmatic symphonic poem“. The development of musical ideas simply follows a slightly similar pattern; small, relatively neutral details start evolving and producing unpredictable twists of events. Their character also transforms as it intensifies, the initial “gusts of wind” growing into veritable “whirlwinds”.

The underlying material for the composition stems from a sequence of intervals, performed at the very beginning by the clarinets as a repetitive but constantly varying mantra. A thematic chain emerges from this, first performed by the English horn and oboe, and later by the strings. Mutating constantly, this thematic chain shapes the entire following musical architecture. The organically evolving form was also one of my key composition principles in this piece. In contrapuntal motion and harmonic development, I have resorted to the general vectorial guidelines I elaborated already over a decade ago.


Erkki-Sven Tüür

translation: Pirjo Püvi


Estonian Festival Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

July 27th 2019 Pärnu Concert Hall, Estonia / Pärnu Music Festival

(---) Environmental concerns lay behind Tüür's work, which was premiered by Järvi with the Orchestre de Paris in 2015. Although there is no explicit attempt at programmatic music to depict the biblical quotation “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”, Tüür does develop small details – ululating clarinets, glockenspiel flecks, a dialogue between violins – and hurls back an apocalyptic storm of orchestral power that tested the hall's limits. It was a particularly great workout for the EFO's busy percussionists, bowed cymbal, cowbells and gongs to the fore. (---)  five stars   Mark Pullinger


Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Paavo Järvi

October 30, 31, November 1 2019 Tonhalle Maag, Zürich

Wer Wind sät, wird Sturm ernten – so weiss es bereits das Alte Testament. Und so tat es Paavo Järvi, der soeben erfolgreich bestallte Musikdirektor des Tonhalle-Orchesters Zürich: Er säte Wind und öffnete auch gleich noch die imaginären Fenster des Konzertsaals, um die frische Luft einer neuen Zeit hereinwehen zu lassen in die der Durchlüftung und Erfrischung überaus bedürftige Tonhalle Maag.

Järvi tat es am Mittwoch wortwörtlich: mit dem 2015 von ihm in Paris uraufgeführten Stück «Sow the Wind . . .» seines estnischen Landsmannes Erkki-Sven Tüür, der während der Konzertsaison 2019/20 den «Creative Chair» der Tonhalle innehat. Knapp zwanzig Minuten lang entfacht Tüürs Tongemälde aus anfänglichem Säuseln und Wehen einen veritablen Höllensturm: Da bläst und tost es, dass der Saalboden vibriert; dazwischen aber vernimmt man das Summen von riesigen Bienenschwärmen, ein Glucksen von wilden Bächen, ein Oszillieren des Lichts in zerzausten Baumkronen, wie man es aus den besten Naturmusiken der Romantik kennt. Und prompt ist danach die Atmosphäre im Raum wie ausgewechselt. Hört doch, scheint Järvi dem verdutzten Publikum zuzurufen: So aufregend, so beredt kann zeitgenössische Musik klingen! (---)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Christian Wildhagen. 30.10.19


Tüür’s works may not be cerebrally challenging, but they have a wide appeal and are easy on the ear for audience and orchestra alike. This multi-layered noisy 18-minute long piece rather outstays its welcome but keeps the orchestra engaged by having most of the huge forces required playing for most of the time. Several rows of the stalls had to be sacrificed for the work. It was commissioned by the Orchestre de Paris (whilst under Paavo Järvi’s command) and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra back in 2015. Tüür develops a fragment of breezy notes into an apocalyptic storm (he was born and still lives on a tiny island in the Baltic Sea). Percussion is high profile, especially the rock band set of drums. Many influences could be heard, from Sibelius, through Messaien to Charles Ives. Orchestral pianist Peter Solomon gave a splendid bravura contribution. Järvi had his work cut out keeping time, the percussionists in particular counting the bars and following his clear downbeats.  The piece was well received. Tüür is the orchestra’s ‘creative chair’, also known as ‘composer-in-residence’. Zurich is going to hear a lot more Tüür before the season is out, including a concerto for accordion in March.

Seen and Heard International, John Rhodes   01.11.19

Wiener Symphoniker, Paavo Järvi

April 22nd 2016 Konzerthaus Wien

(---) In ihrem achten Saisonkonzert im Wiener Konzerthaus brachten die Wiener Symphoniker ein Programm, in dem Werke und Interpreten so ideal zusammenpaßten, daß man von einem veritablen Glücksfall sprechen kann. Am Beginn stand ein Auftragswerk des estnischen Komponisten Erkki-Sven Tüür, "Sow the Wind...", entstanden 2015. Komponiert nach der von ihm entwickelten "Vektoriellen Methode" entstand hier ein Klanggemälde, das im Spiel mit Klangfarben und -möglichkeiten zur Auseinandersetzung auffordert; der Zuhörer wird nicht einfach entlassen und zum nächsten Stück weitergereicht. Das ist es letztlich, worum es in der Kunst geht, und Tüür hat den Punkt ganz genau getroffen.(---)

Ein weiterer erfreulicher Aspekt war die Anwesenheit von Erkki-Sven Tüür bei der österreichischen Erstaufführung seines Werkes; derartige Gelegenheiten bieten sich nicht allzu oft. Das Publikum wußte es zu schätzen und dankte es mit entsprechendem Beifall.  

Dominik Lepuschitz


Tormiloits / Incantation of Tempest

Dedicated to Veljo Tormis



2222, 4231, Timp + 1, Strings

Fp: Bamberger Symphoniker, conductor  Jakub Hrůša

November 12th 2015, Stadthalle Bayreuth.

Commissioned by: Bamberger Symphoniker

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: Mythos  ALPHA595   Estonian Festival Orchestra  cond. Paavo Järvi  (2020)


Le poids des vies non vécues



3333, 4331, 1+3, strings

Fp: Orchestre National de Belgique, conductor Arvo Volmer

February 6th 2015  BOZAR Brussels

Commissioned by: Orchestre National de Belgique

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: Peregrinus Ecstaticus  Ondine ODE 1287-2 (2017)

      Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu

Program note

For season 2014/2015, the Belgian National Orchestra commissioned new works from many European composers whose homelands had been dragged into World War I. This served to commemorate the passing of a hundred years from a massacre of unprecedented scale in history. I also received an invitation from Brussels to participate in this concert series. I thought about how something completely unbelievable happened to Estonia during these war years – the birth of our national independence. I composed this musical epitaph to commemorate those who fell in the Estonian War of Independence as well as in World War I in general. Thinking about all the countless young men among the multitudes who lost their lives – they died in the trenches without starting work in the professions they dreamt about, without ever seeing their children or grandchildren – should make us feel a compelling obligation to solve our problems by peaceful political means and avoid cruelty and violence. Unfortunately, the reality today is as alarmingly menacing as ever. And a sad question arises again: is mankind able to learn anything from history? We need to feel the burden which the millions of unlived lives lay on us. And not only the ones from a century ago. If we do not care, if we do not feel this burden or dwell on it from time to time, all these sacrifices have been in vain. These thoughts are expressed by the title Le poids des vies non vécues (The Burden of Unlived Life) and the music was born from the unutterable words behind these thoughts.

(Translation Pirjo Jonas)

De Profundis



3333, 6331, 1+3, Arpa, Pianoforte(Celesta), Strings

Fp: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Olari Elts

November 1st 2013 Helsinki Music Center

Commissioned by: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Broadcasting Companies TROS, AVRO, NTR for the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in De Vrijdag van Vredenburg

Publisher: Edition Peters

Program note


De Profundis is like a silent prayer that gathers strength as it grows gradually, becomes increasingly intense and, having reached its culmination, evaporates into resplendent heights.

The source code that forms the musical material is 1.3.2 (minor second – minor third – major second). Over the course of the piece this code inspires the most versatile derivatives.



Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Olari Elts

Nov. 1st 2013 Helsinki Music Center



A prayer rising out of silence


The new orchestral work De Profundis by Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür is a prayer that slowly rises out of a deep and gloomy silence towards ever brighter heights.

De Profundis is from Psalm 129 [sic] in the Bible: “Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord.” This Latin prayer is recited at services commemorating the dead. De Profundis can mean a final farewell, but it is not necessarily hopeless: the road lies open to transcendence.

From the HPO strings at the premiere of the neo-Romantic De Profundis, Olari Elts conjured slow, darkly, mournfully singing undercurrents. The impression was of a deep watery element symbolising the realm of the dead, mystery, and at the same time the vital energy that renews.

Out of the undercurrents there began to well forth woodwind eddies heading for the surface of the timbral sea, and air. Their sadness notwithstanding, the strings’ surging sighs had an ecstatic quality akin to that in the heavy anguished swell of the prelude to act three of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

Tüür’s beautiful new work may be regarded as a sort of slowed-down minimalism. A broad entity growing and transforming out of a concise basic code.

If Tüür’s De profundis radiates light at the end, Mahler’s sixth symphony offers no final consolation whatsoever: cruel reality crushes any faith in life. Elts and the HPO had sufficient charged current for the whole broad span of the 80-minute work.



Helsingin Sanomat, Nov. 4. 2013  Hannu-Ilari Lampila

Symphony No 10 "Æris" for Horn Quartet and Orchestra

Dedicated to German Hornsound



Horn Quartet, 3333, 0331, Timp+3, Harp, Strings

Planned Fp. German Hornsound, Konzerthauorchester Berlin, Juraj Valčuha

     April 1st 2022, Konzerthaus Berlin.

     This premiere was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic

Real Fp. German Hornsound, Bochumer Symphoniker, Olari Elts

     May 19th 2022 Bochum, Anneliese Brost Musikforum Ruhr

Commissioned by: Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra,

                           Bochumer Symphoniker, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

Program note

In Latin, ÆRIS means brass, which is also the name of a certain instrument group in the symphony orchestra. However, AERIS means ‘air’ and without this essential element, not a sound would come out of brass instruments. Thus, the title of my tenth symphony focuses mainly on the brass sound that carries the weight of this composition.

The symphony begins by exhibiting this sound, which seems to be arriving from beyond the horizon. The illusion of an “upward stretching” axis pitch formed by quarter tones is the first sign of a mysterious group of guests who will soon start playing a decisive role in the entire development process.

The increasingly dense layer formed mainly by the woodwinds presents a contrasting material to the slowly stretching sound axis of the French horns. In turn, this contrasting material later forms the basis for the theme of the French horn quartet.

The symphony is divided into four movements that transition without clear separation. Every movement expresses a different development between the ensemble of soloists and the orchestra. Sometimes their motifs spread into the orchestra like memes that start changing and gradually take on lives of their own; sometimes they enter a debate without reaching common ground; sometimes there is a dialogue between the soloists and the ensembles within the orchestra, creating the impression of shared development principles...

The French horn quartet may be regarded as messengers, bringing prophecies of imminent irreversible changes. Will their message be understood? What will be the reaction and how will it impact communication? Where did they come from anyway? What did they want to tell us? Let every member of the audience deal with these questions according to their social compass and imagination. It is not up to me to paraphrase my music and I won’t bother anyone with my composition techniques or creative methods – that is a topic for special seminars. What I wish is for the audience to take this journey with an open mind.   

I am extremely grateful to the French horn quartet German Hornsound who came to me with the idea of composing such a piece.

Translation: Pirjo Jonas

Symphony No. 9 "Mythos"

Dedicated to Paavo Järvi



3333, 4331, 1+3, Harp, Strings

Fp: Estonian Festival Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi

Jan. 18th 2018 BOZAR Brussels

Commissioned by: the Government Office of Estonia for the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: Mythos  ALPHA595   Estonian Festival Orchestra  cond. Paavo Järvi  (2020)




Program note

Erkki Sven Tüür’s Symphony No 9 was commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia. The importance of this aspect for an instrumental drama that represents the very essence of music might be non-existent, had the composer himself not titled it “Mythos” – myth. This, and also the number of the symphony, which since Beethoven has come to mean the most comprehensive expression – if not a summary – of an artist’s creed, packs the symphony with semantic connotations even before listening to it.
Tüür’s Symphony No 9 is a story of creation par excellence. This is hinted at by the fifths we hear already at the beginning of the symphony – intervals the composer has never before used as such an essential structural element of his compositions. The fifth, as we know, is the most consonant interval that can occur between two different pitches. In that sense, the unison, i.e. the prime and/or octave are not intervals – they do not occur between two different pitch classes. Therefore, the fifth may semantically be regarded also as the most ancient phenomenon – something that occurs in the initial process of a single sound “breaking into” a harmony. 
Because of this feature, in Western music the fifth – without any additions so far – often denotes something neutral, undefined, a primordial chaos, from which the individual and the defined must spring from. The usage of this “pre-thematic” material enables us to link Tüür’s composition to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as well as to Mahler’s 1st Symphony. Similarly to Beethoven and Mahler, an individual consciousness arises from this “primordial chaos” in the beginning of Tüür’s composition. However, unlike Beethoven’s imperative or Mahler’s vigorous main theme, Tüür observes the world from a pure and angelic standpoint – as if through an innocent child’s eyes, with anticipation and wonder. Similarly to Beethoven, the “main theme” of Tüür’s symphony is also made up of fifths and fourths, i.e. intervals that started the entire musical process. On the one hand, it says that man is made of the same material as nature. However, as the material expressing individual consciousness can be heard in a high register, it also defines man’s “place” as primordially “high”, i.e. as spiritual or as an “ascended” form of nature. 
One may say that the formation of individual consciousness in the symphony is the moment when “one” becomes “two”, i.e. where the initially inseparable whole breaks down into the witness and the witnessed, the subject and the object, etc. This division automatically entails multiplicity: since this moment the “primordial chaos” is replaced by many clearly identifiable melodies with gradually increasing individuality. This metamorphosis concludes the exposition that describes existence before falling into sin. Such a comparison is justified by the beginning of the symphony’s main part, where the already familiar “main theme” that represents consciousness has been transferred to a low register. By bringing together the extreme opposites of the theme, the music seems to say that although man was made in heaven, he equally belongs to the abyss from which he must struggle out again. In a way, this is also emphasised by the tuba that performs the “main theme” – as a “tangible” and “clumsy” instrument it contradicts the free and effortless movement of the high strings that performed the “main theme” before. Also, the “main theme” is now restrained by the resistance of matter: the tuba’s every effort to conquer new heights is accompanied by the descending cascades of woodwinds, seemingly erasing these efforts. Meanwhile, these descending cascades are not external powers, but largely the result of the musical inertia brought about by the ascending passages of the tuba.
The development of the music transforms something that was initially expressed as individual into something societal: at one point, the tuba soloist loses its importance as an initiator of new musical developments, handing the role over to the brass section and later to other sections. The mentioned counter-effect also amplifies, expressed in the extremely slow and glidingly descending layer of the French horn and later also of other brass instruments. The more intensely the strings are pursuing heights, the more fatal if not diabolical is the contradicting layer of descending sounds, portraying the fall into sin (or the downfall of the Occident?) as a true catastrophe of cosmic proportions.
Typically of Tüür, in this piece the initially antagonistic structural layers switch places: at the end of the described development, the (high) strings start descending and the brasses ascending. The ascent of the latter seems to be obstructed by an invisible glass ceiling. The frustration born from this “obstruction” is expressed in the growth of rhythmical intensity, which, in its fragmentation, threatens to transform into the initial “primordial chaos”. But only for moment, as after a brief deceleration, the development of the composition tears away from the amorphous musical mass and enters a new round of development – the “finale” of the symphony, which might not be perceived as such due to the smooth transition. In a way, we have now entered the modern society. The components of musical structure become extremely exact, but at the same time, the hierarchy of the musical events that characterised the previous sections seems to have disappeared. The hierarchical flatness and equality of all musical events cause even greater fragmentation, but also a temporal compactness: the processes that took a long time to develop in the previous sections of the symphony, now occur within a moment. This is now a completely “human” world, with the sacral completely erased from it. As such, the “finale” does not represent an expected positive solution but rather a final phase in the development/downfall of mankind. At one point, this “crazy vehicle” crashes into the wall. This is followed by a frozen stillness that revives the memory of the ascending fifths, i.e. the innocence with which the individual consciousness used to view the world.
Here, one has to agree with Joonas Hellerma  who says that Tüür’s musical narratives could be described as stories akin to the Old Testament – stories where absolution is at best replaced with the possibility of it. The 9th Symphony is no exception: it may be viewed as a paraphrase of Beethoven’s 9th insofar that it springs from the same foundations. In every other sense, it moves in the opposite direction, serving as a warning of the potential collapse that awaits man rather than as a message of joy. Mainly, though, the symphony seems to pose a question about responsibility, which in the context of this composition means an unwillingness to admit our own “celestial” origin and act according to it: every developmental phase that follows draws away from the initial material, the “primordial chaos” and the “main theme” that grew from it. This is accompanied by the increasing external individualisation and internal emptiness of the deforming material. Therefore, the symphony may also be viewed in the context of the collective or national “guilt”, if by the latter we mean forsaking the responsibilities mentioned above.

Kerri Kotta

translation Pirjo Jonas


Estonian Festival Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi  World premiere


(---)All this reflects the broader fact that there’s a level of ambition and lyrical intensity demonstrated throughout the Ninth Symphony that go beyond what one usually encounters in Tüür’s music. The closing minutes, coming in the aftermath of such bewildering enormity, are exquisite. Glistening solo violins emerge and float, like an outbreak of refracted chamber music, and though the music is increasingly suspended and radiant, coloured with harp and tam-tam, energy persists – and makes its presence felt – even here. In keeping with all that went before, it’s not a piece where the end is obviously in sight.

To find your way through such a complicated, twisting approach to musical narrative as this is hugely stimulating and enjoyable. i’ve listened to the symphony numerous times and each time it’s been a very different experience, my disorientation being the only constant, leading to new discoveries and (re)appraisals of what’s going on. It’s a work that fully earns its name and its place as a symphony – especially a ninth symphony – as well as vividly capturing the essence of its subtitle ‘Mythos’, creating a potent musical parallel of the interpretation of complex phenomena which, once developed into shared local beliefs and stories, form the foundation of all societies, old and new. Societies that can become strong enough to fight oppression and reclaim their independence. Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Symphony No. 9 embodies both myth and history, natural and supernatural, tangible and ephemeral, but however it’s interpreted, above all conveys an elemental force of conviction that, though abstract, leaves no room for doubt.

Simon Cummings   10 February 2018

Full review:


Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Olari Elts  Estonia Concert Hall 4 October 2019

(---) The prospect of the Tallinn concert was initially perplexing to many musical minds: wouldn't it have been better to celebrate a major birthday with a retrospective featuring works from across Tüür's creative life? In practice, it made complete sense and could hardly have had a more devastating impact. (---) It was right, all the same, to have the official symphony, No. 9 (daunting figure), titled "Mythos" and a homage to Estonia's 100th anniversary, as the last work on the programme, epic in feel though not in length. The blocks of descending strings and ascending brass (and vice-versa) at the heart of this terrifying incantation set the firmest possible seal on Tüür as successor to the symphonic mastery of Lepo Sumera, still underrated outside his native land, whose Fourth and Sixth Symphonies had the biggest impact on me of any works experienced for the first time in recent years. This concert immediately joined them - no small tribute to the stunning playing and firm purpose of the ERSO under the clear-sighted Elts, and the intense response of a packed concert hall. The nomination of Pärt's successor - though long live the king - is now official.

David Nice   19 December 2019

Symphony No. 8



2(1=fl.contralto 2=piccolo)2(2=corno anglese)2(2=cl.basso)2(2=contrafag.),

2200, 1 percussione, strings (min. 65432)

Fp. Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conductor Olari Elts

April 30. 2010 City Halls, Glasgow, UK

Commissioned by: Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: Ondine ODE 1303-2   Tapiola Sinfonietta   cond. Olari Elts  (2018)

Program note


I composed the Eighth symphony at the suggestion of my good friend Olari Elts; it was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Considering the instrumentation of the orchestra (double woodwinds, 2 trumpets, two French horns, one percussionist and strings) it almost seems like a chamber symphony. Indeed, there are several chamber-like passages, but the intense tectonic shifts between sound masses are equally important. Thus, I simply added it to the list of my symphonies without granting it a separate “chamber symphony” status.

One of the ideas guiding the internal psychological development logic of this symphony might be the creation of structure and then bringing it to life. In other words, the initially dominating objective and detached observation gradually grows more subjective and, hopefully, involved and passionate.

As for musical form, the 8th symphony is divided into three movements, all of them performed attacca.

The key motif (1-1-1) X, which forms the foundation for musical development throughout the composition, consists of three ascending minor second intervals with a “knocking” rhythm. This is followed by a micro-polyphonic “sound cloud”, Y based on the same intervals, which is interrupted by the next “knocking”. These two elements are similar in terms of intervals, but opposites in terms of character and rhythm, evolving into contrasting realms of sound. Everything that ensues is an alternation of focus between X and Y. The first movement, in turn, consists of three parts. The first part is fast, intense, and plays with shifts in various types of texture. The interval range gradually expands, introducing the major second, then the minor third, major third, etc. (1—2—3—4 etc). This so-called “expansion” also becomes a key principle for the development of linear processes throughout the whole symphony. The second part of the first movement is chamber-like music enriched with several intertwining solo passages. This zooms in on the world represented by Y. The third part returns to the motifs originating from X, but much more fiercely.

The 2nd movement begins with a complete standstill, while taking the developments of Y under even greater scrutiny. Unlike the beginning of the 1st movement, this section is dominated by descending elements. The initially frozen world begins to “warm up” slowly; at some point, the melodic line that evolves from yet another intervallic expansion starts to resemble archaic Estonian folk songs.

The 3rd movement presents somewhat surreal (dance-like!) surprises that culminate into co-functionality between X and Y, whereas the three-note motifs performed by strings have undergone a tremendous expansion compared to their starting point.

The constant sense of “being on the road”, organic development and fluidity is crucial for this music. Taking note of the brief description above is optional, not obligatory. Trust your intuition, sharpen your attention and let the energy springing from the music speak to you. The best approach I can recommend is prejudice-free listening. Thus, everyone can create their very own unique story while listening to this music.

Erkki-Sven Tüür

(Translation from Estonian Pirjo Püvi)



Scottish Chamber Orchestra, cond. Olari Elts

April 30. 2010  City Halls, Glasgow

May 1. 2010    Queen's Hall, Edinburgh


(---)Estonian conductor Olari Elts had a clear affinity for the soundworld which dominated the premiere of Symphony No 8 by his friend and composer Erkki-Sven Tuur. For his latest work, Tuur drew on a colour palette as psychedelic as the Northern Lights, using a dazzling array of effects as well as an exotic line-up of percussion instruments to conjure up images of restless encounters with nature. (---)

The Scotsman, May 4. 2010  Susan Nickalls


(---) There was much to admire in the symphony. The woodwind writing was fantastic, especially of a critical element in the music which kept returning: a slithering motif that was like water running over a smooth rock. The crunchy rhythms and accents of the first movement had a knockout effect. The slow movement was deep down and atmospheric; and the elusive dance rhythms of the finale aspired to a surreal waltz. (---)

The Herald, May 3. 2010  Michael Tumelty


(---) The symphony, written in four continuous movements, juxtaposes bold blocks of orchestral colour, sonority seemingly taking precedence over musical development. Tüür's use of the orchestra is imaginative, but it wasn't clear that the piece had enough substance to justify its length. (---)

The Guardian. May 6. 2010  Rowena Smith



Münchener Kammerorchester, cond. Olari Elts

December 16. 2010  Prinzregententheater, München


(---) Denn das halbstündige Werk hatte eine Unmittelbarkeit, sprach direkt zum Hörer: in seinen Verläufen, in jedem Akkord, den farbigen Details der Instrumentierung und im Wechselspiel wie rhythmische Akzentuierungen Höhepunkte anpeilen kann. Nach der ersten Hälfte dominierten zunächst kammermusikalische Strukturen, bevor sich schliesslich eine perfekt gebaute finale Steigerung in einer Art Explosion löste. Grosser Beifall für den Komponisten und eine ausgefeilte Interpretation unter Olari Elts. (---)

Süddeutsche Zeitung.  Petra Hallmayer


(---) Erkki-Sven Tüür's faszinierende 8. Sinfonie war dann ein wesentlich handfesterer Kampf gegen die Erdschwere: Die erste Sekunde dachte man, der Schlager "Brasil" lege los - doch das aufschiessende Initial-Motiv rekurrierte eher auf die "Mannheimer Rakete" klassischer Sinfonik. Der Zündfunke setzte eine fast Beethoven'sche Reise ans Licht in Gang, voll unterschiedlichster Motiv-Metamorphosen und -Masken. In der Mitte wurde beeindruckend lang und tief in den drohenden, Geisteratemdurchwehten Abgrund gelauscht, bevor es hiess "Bahn frei" zur gleissenden Apotheose. Olari Elts am Pult liess die Premiere nicht bloss nach Aufführung, sondern nach echter Interpretation klingen. Mit "Bravo"-durchsetztem Applaus wurde diese Lebendigkeit, wie man sie sonst bei Neuer Musik kaum erlebt, belohnt.

Münchner Merkur.   Thomas Willmann



Symphony No. 7 "Pietas" Play

Dedicated to Tenzin Gyatso and his lifelong endeavours



334(4=cl.b)3(3=cbassoon), 4331, Timp.+3perc., Harp, Mixed choir (SATB), Strings

Fp. hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)

     NDR Chor, conductor Paavo Järvi

June 18. 2009 Alte Oper, Frankfurt

Commissioned by: Hessische Rundfunk and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

(audio sample from the second "wave")

CD: Seventh Symphony / Piano Concerto ECM 2341 

Program note

A few years ago, Paavo Järvi proposed that I write a large-scale orchestral piece, which would also involve a choir. I agreed instantly – I had never tried the “choral symphony” genre before. Developing the general concept and architecture of form, however, was considerably more time-consuming. I wanted the orchestra to perform the intense developments and the choir to present isolated passages as if from “another reality”, remaining transparent, brief, aphoristic. I compiled the lyrics from quotes from different historical eras and cultural backgrounds authored by more or less famous persons and ranging from Buddha to Jimi Hendrix. And yet, when I read those lines as a uniform text corps, it seemed that they might well have been written by a single person. The unifying keywords are “compassion” and “love”. This also inspired the subtitle of the symphony, “Pietas”, which broadly means compassion in Latin. 


(The term “pietas” has so many nuances that it would be difficult to provide a single translation, but its essence could be something like “pious duty towards fellow men” that would definitely include compassion and pain. This word encompassed a certain deep human tenderness in Antique Rome where it was used to designate the relationship between parents and children, the living and the dead, people and gods, as well as in Latin Christianity, where “pietas” involves the same associations, but is usually translated simply as “piety” or “devoutness”  (Marju Lepajõe, Faculty of Theology, Tartu University))

In broad terms the whole symphony comprises four “waves”, each one longer than the previous. The first wave is dominated by a cold and brilliant texture inspired by micro-polyphonic techniques, performed mainly by woodwind instruments, Glockenspiel and a vibraphone. The texture is imbued by “pillars of chords” that seemingly halt the flow of musical time. In addition to woodwind instruments, they are mainly played by strings; the next “pillars of chords” also include brass instruments. In a musical sense the entire ensuing development occurs as a result of the “friction” between these contrasting texture elements.

After the first choir lines (We are what we think...) begins the second, much more intense wave. The final line of the choir segment that follows the second wave (an eye for an eye...) inspired the character of the third wave and its slowly growing aggressiveness. With a slight simplification, I may say that it is a sort of psychological–musical portrait of a world without love and all that entails. It is unavoidable that once a text is used, even if only minimally, it starts to create meanings for an otherwise abstract musical material. In the traditional “symphonic-semantic” meaning the third wave is the Scherzo movement. 

The next, most extensive choir passage is introspective and smoothly develops into the fourth wave that then forms the final culmination.

I composed this music pursuant to the principles of the self-designed vectorial method, which I adopted since writing “Oxymoron” in 2003. In the seventh symphony the principle key code is 1-2-4-2-1.

The seventh symphony “Pietas” is dedicated to Tenzin Gyatso and his lifelong endeavours.

Erkki-Sven Tüür

(translation Pirjo Püvi)





hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) NDR Chor, conductor Paavo Järvi

June 18. 2009 Alte Oper, Frankfurt


(---) Tüürs 7. Sinfonie - die dritte Uraufführung für den Esten in Frankfurt – gewinnt ihre "magischen" Formeln gleichsam aus Buddhas Beschwörungen wie "Erfülle deinen Geist mit Mitgefühl" oder "Mit unseren Gedanken erschaffen wir die Welt". Die vielgestaltige, wellenförmig sich steigernde Musik wird dabei - jenseits von tonalen Bezügen - zugleich Appell und Kontemplation, leicht schwingend zu Beginn, dann sich verdichtend zu immer heftigerer Intensität, um im Finale dann zu verdämmern. Kein Triumph, sondern auch hier eine "magische" Hoffnung. Man konnte dabei die Energien des Orchesters wie die Präsenz, die Elastizität des Chores nur bewundern. Von Paavo Järvis Souveränität ganz zu schweigen. Starker Beifall für den anwesenden Komponisten.

Frankfurter Neue Presse vom 20. 06. 2009


(---) Für die 45 Mitglieder starke Sängergemeinschaft war der Einstieg eine Zuzatzaufgabe, denn hauptsächlich ging es an diesem hochgarätigen Konzertabend um die Uraufführung der Sinfonie Nr. 7 für Chor und Orchester ("Pietas") von Erkki-Sven Tüür. Der Komponist aus Estland ist mit seinem Landsmann Järvi seit langem befreundet, so dass es nicht allzu erstaunlich scheint, wenn Frankfurt jetzt abermals die Ehre einer Tüür-Premiere zuteil wurde. Die Musik schöpft aus zahlreichen Quellen und wirkt darin ziemlich zeitgeistig: Anklänge an Barock, Minimalismus, starre Klangfelder, Rockepisoden - dem Komponisten ist nichts wirklich fremd. Aphoristische Choreinsprengsel bedienen sich demzufolge passend eines Zitatenschatzes, der von Buddha bis zu Jimi Hendrix reicht. Eine wundervolle Eigenart dieser Musik besteht aber darin, dass dieses Stilgemisch als solches nicht empfunden wird, der Eindruck eines blanken Eklektizismus gar nicht aufkommen will, weil es Tüür gelingt, alles in eine Tonsprache von unverwechselbarer Eigenartigkeit und Formstrenge einzuschmelzen. Die Musik entwickelt sich deutlich hörbar in vier Wellen von zunehmender Wuht und Komplexität, gegliedert und getrennt von den Chorpassagen, die den wuchernden und sich entfaltenden musikalischen Keimzellen als eine Art "Friedensangebot" Einhalt gebieten. Das Werk als Ganzes ist von beeindruckender Wirkung, der Beifall war einhellig. (---)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Harald Budweg


Zum Saisonfinale ein Bekenntnis zu klassischer Moderne und zeitgenössischer Musik: Mit der uraufgeführten 7. Sinfonie seines estnischen Landsmanns Erkki-Sven Tüür setzte Chefdirigent Paavo Järvi beim Konzert des hr-Sinfonieorchesters den Akzent. Zuvor hatte der NDR-Chor Beethovens "Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt" in Reinzeichnung abgeliefert. Zum orchestralen Orkan entwickelte sich Strawinskys "Le sacre du printemps". Wie der anwesende Tüür wurde das Schlüsselwerk der Moderne mit kaum enden wollendem Beifall bedacht. 

Die "Meeresstille" auf Goethe-Gedichte, die das Erlebnis einer Flaute mit erlösendem Chorjubel kompensieren, wenn plötzlicher Wind die Segel auf "Glückliche Fahrt" trimmt, scheint ideal zum Einhören auf Ungehörtes. Extrem leise vermittelt Järvi den Chor- und Orchesterklang, den Albtraum gleichsam in Zeitlupe vollziehend. Die Antennen sind geschärft für Tüürs "Pietas", die der geschmeidige Chor (Einstudierung: Werner-Hans Hagen) propagiert: Zitate von Buddha, Gandhi und Jimi Hendrix, die den Frieden in dieser Welt einfordern, erfüllt von Mitgefühl und Sorge um die Menschheit. Tüür hat aus grellen Klangschlieren einen Strom entwickelt, der in großen Wellen ausläuft. Die Minimalmusik mit meditativem Wiederholungsdrang ist so kühl kalkuliert, wie archaische Akkordpfeiler das Fundament stabilisieren. Eine moderat tonale Sprache, die bei Järvis feinnerviger Dynamisierungskunst in Bann schlägt. Wenn die Welt ins Jammertal abdriftet, haben tiefe Bläser starke Momente, in die eine Schlagwerk-Batterie rockig dreinfährt. 

Die Lärmwelle bricht sich in gregorianisch gründenden, leise insistierenden Choraltönen, hauchfein, aber intensiv vom Chor ausgesungen. Am Ende weht ein hoffnungsvoller Wind aus der Maschine. Eine Sinfonie, die man gern wiederhören würde. (---)

Offenbach-Post vom 22. 06. 2009   Klaus Ackermann




(---)Diese starke emotionale Vorgabe wurde von Erkki Sven Tüürs siebter Sinfonie mit dem Titel "Pietas" nicht ungebrochen aufgenommen. Die "Pietas", ein Auftragswerk des Hessischen Rundfunks und des Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (dessen Chefdirigent ebenfalls Paavo Järvi ist), wurde am Donnerstag vom HR-Sinfonieorchester in der Alten Oper uraufgeführt. Es ist eine Chorsinfonie, in der Chor und Orchester nebeneinander arbeiten. Sie lebt zwar auch von einer Dramaturgie emotionaler Gegensätze, aber diese Gegensätze werden zwischen Orchester und Chor - dessen Texte vor allem von Buddha und Gandhi stammen - aufgeteilt und verhalten sich zueinander wie tektonische Gebilde, die aufeinander geschoben werden: Sie vermischen sich nicht, sondern intensivieren und erhöhen füreinander den Druck. 

Tüürs Sinfonie besteht weniger aus vier Sätzen als aus vier Wellen. Deren Anordnung folgt einer Steigerungsdramaturgie, die aber ohne eine Beethovensche Auflösung auskommt. Inwieweit das eine Folge der vektoriellen Kompositionstechnik ist, von der Tüür ein wenig kryptisch spricht, ist nicht ohne weiteres zu erkennen. Erkennbar ist gleichwohl der politische Gehalt des Werkes. Tüür widmet die Sinfonie Tenzin Gyatso und dessen lebenslangem Wirken. Tenzin Gyatso ist der Mönchsname des derzeitigen Dalai Lama. 

Frankfurter Rundschau vom 20. 06. 2009  Hans-Jürgen Linke



Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, May Festival Chorus, cond. Paavo Järvi

Sept.25-27. 2009

(---)But then, there was also the United States premiere of Symphony No. 7, “Pietas,” a 40-minute choral symphony by Erkki-Sven Tüür, co-commissioned by the CSO. Dedicated to the Dalai Lama, it is an important work, an all-encompassing hymn to the modern world, and its texts were majestically sung by the May Festival Chorus.

The evening opened with “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks,” which details the adventures of the legendary Till. It’s a horn-lover’s dream. The opening flourish (Till’s horn theme) was magnificently played (Elizabeth Freimuth), and Järvi vividly brought out each of the escapades pointedly and with driving momentum. The orchestra has never sounded so brilliant.

Tüür’s Symphony No. 7 somehow made a good pairing, perhaps because of the Estonian composer’s gift for orchestral sonority. For him, the orchestra represented turmoil in the world, and the chorus projected messages of “serene holiness” between agitated passages. Tüür (who later took a bow) chose texts in English of love and peace by spiritual leaders such as Buddha and Gandhi – as well as Jimi Hendrix.

The journey was a mesmerizing arc that began with a mystical “tintinnabulation” of vibraphone and bell-like colors. The orchestral interludes had myriad effects and moods - primeval drones in basses and bassoons, agitated strings, explosive climaxes in brass and percussion – yet they all worked. The celestial, otherworldly sounds that began the piece returned in the end.

The chorus’ most stunning moment came to Buddha’s words, “Fill your mind with compassion.” It was the heart of the piece, and it was performed with unforgettable refinement. The audience gave it a warm reception. (---)

Kentucky Enquirer/  Janelle Gelfand



Erkki-Sven Tüür is no stranger to Cincinnati.
The Estonian composer, a lifelong friend of Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi, has visited here and several of his compositions have been performed on CSO concerts, including his 1999 "Exodus" with Järvi and the CSO at Carnegie Hall.

Järvi opened the CSO's 115th season Sept. 25 at Music Hall with the U.S. premiere of Tüür's Symphony No.7, "Pietas," featuring the May Festival Chorus.
  A co-commission by the CSO and the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, which premiered it in June of this year, the 40-minute work illustrates Tüür's continuing development as one of the most creative figures in new music today.

Significantly, Tüür (who turns 50 in October) began his musical career as a rock star in his native country.  Not satisfied with that, he undertook a thoroughgoing study of composition wherein he absorbed just about every stream that is coursing through the art form today.  His objective, he says, is to help bring about a rapprochement between mid-20th century modernism, whose cerebral quality turned off a whole generation of listeners, and the more "accessible" music (including minimalism) that began to assert itself in the 1970s. 
Music needs structure, especially to sustain extended works, and Tüür is concerned with both "intellectual" and "emotional" energy, he says.  He utilizes a formal technique which he calls "vectorial composition," a term sounding suspiciously like the rigorous methods that left much of the concert audience behind not so long ago.  (A vector, by the way, in addition to being a carrier of disease like a mosquito, is generally defined as a quantity with both length and direction and quite adaptable to the musical process.  Pre-composed music vectors can be found online ready for use.) (---)

Strategically, Tüür's "Pietas" was placed second, just before intermission.  It is a timely work for our turbulent times and also a challenging one that rewards re-hearing. (It was this listener's second exposure, having attended the dress rehearsal Sept. 24). Scored for large orchestra, it is suffused with color -- astonishingly so -- including a wealth of percussion, to which Tüür ascribes the same importance, he says, as the first violins. 

The chorus acts as a commentator on the drama, which is laid out by the instruments.  The texts are short, aphoristic quotes from six world historical figures, none of them a god, all concerned with "pietas" (Latin), defined as compassion and ultimately love, said Tüür.

Examples are "We are what we think" (Buddha), "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" (ascribed to Mahatma Gandhi) and "The measure of love is to love without measure" (St. Augustine)  The work is dedicated to the Dalai Lama.
The texts serve as structural dividers, too, separating the symphony into its four movements, which Tüür calls "waves."  

The first wave (movement one) began with a shimmer of flute, glockenspiel and bowed vibraphone (double bass bow drawn up the side of the vibraphone).  The double basses sounded a deep drone.  The mood was quizzical, with lots of froth and bubbles.  The horns entered a semi-tone apart, with muted trumpets and much layering of scalar passages in the winds. It came to a stop before the tenors and basses made the first choral entry with, "We are what we think . . . with our thoughts we make the world."

Gandhi's "You must be the change you see in the world," sung the full choir, followed and was given a gentle halo of solo violin and viola (concertmaster Timothy Lees and visiting principal violist Brian Schen).

Warm strings opened the second wave, and the winds swirled around them.  The brasses entered in a combative mood and conflict broke out, with wood blocks, drum set and the sections of the orchestra seemingly pitted against each other.  The strings re-entered and the music swelled with stinging discord before the second choral entrance, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace" (Jimi Hendrix).  This was echoed by the string choir and soft touches of tam-tam.

The climate turned ugly as the third wave (which Tüür calls the scherzo) began.  The chorus' soft "An eye for an eye . . ." was met by low winds, brass and double basses which coiled vulgarly down against comments by the tuba recalling the dragon Fafner in Wagner's "Ring" cycle.  There was cackling in the woodwinds, who also bent their pitches every which way.  The Buddha's "Fill your mind with compassion" by the women's voices was set against a swirl of harp and winds, then repeated by the full choir.  There was a moment of repose, however, as the brasses blew through their mouthpieces against a shiver of rainstick (percussion).  It was like a gust of cool wind and created an extraordinary effect.

(Interestingly, Tüür does not compose at the piano, he said, but like master orchestrator Hector Berlioz in the 19th century, thinks in colors from the beginning of the compositional process.)

Quotes by Augustine, Mother Teresa ("If you judge people, you have no time to love them") and Deepak Chopra ("The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers," sung fortissimo like a reprimand) and a repeat of "Fill your mind with compassion" led into the fourth wave.

The oboes spoke almost pleadingly as the final movement began, reaching into their highest register for a painful, keening effect.  The music seemed to ascend, and textures thickened.  Another extraordinary effect was percussionist Richard Jensen wielding a claw hammer against "coiled springs" (automobile suspension springs).  A world of sound enveloped the listener and became almost majestic at times.  The brasses' "wind"/rainstick effect was repeated, creating another soothing moment.

Symbolically perhaps, the chorus and orchestra spoke as one at the end on the Buddha's "We are what we think."  Perhaps true unity has been achieved?  The texture thinned once again to strings, harp and bowed vibraphone as peace seemed to descend, given a sting, however, by the flutes' blurred final pitch.

Applause was polite (perhaps startled) at first, but grew unanimous as Jarvi invited Tüür to stand with him on the podium.   Mary Ellyn Hutton




Symphony No. 6 "Strata" Play

Dedicated to Anu Tali and Nordic Symphony Orchestra



3333, 4331, 1+3, piano, harp, strings, soundtrack

Fp: Nordic Symphony Orchestra, conductor Anu Tali

May 9, 2007, Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn

Commissioned by: Nordic Symphony Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: "Strata" ECM New Series (2010); Nordic Symphony Orchestra, cond. Anu Tali


Program note


At least for now it remains an unresolved question for science what existed before the Big Bang, or what caused it. Similarly it remains a riddle in the best sense of the word what causes a major musical work to come into existence. But all too often the composer does not remember, either, and then it passes into the realm of myth-making. Of course the person or group that commissioned the work has an important role, and thanks go out to Anu Tali here. But I am thinking of the moment where nothing becomes something – something akin to a vision – some aura that describes the energy plan and general form of a work that does not exist yet.

Looking through a self-analytical lens and with 20/20 hindsight, I have to say that in the beginning of a not inconsiderable number of works I have wanted to focus the listener’s attention on the elementary particles of the sound material: timbre, intervals, harmonic components and rhythmic structures, which have the potential of becoming thematic chains, forming sections with contrasting form, harmonic progressions that flow into one another, and so on. This sort of thinking differs significantly from traditional symphonic form (themes and their development). Here the theme is moulded as the result of a long and complicated process, emerging in “pure form” only in the final phase of the work.

The Sixth Symphony follows a similar model in general terms. The static chordal pillars are followed by a chain of rising swirls, and the relationships of their elements with the following bass melody give rise to the further musical development. Simultaneous perception of the quick and slow tempos in different layers is one of the key characteristics, as is the gradual acceleration of the meter, as a result of which we reach the “fast part” from the “slow part” and without any interruptions along the way. The constant change, constriction and expansion of the orchestral sound also have a key role.

Before the end, I brought in a theme inspired by Setu wailing song. In this connection it becomes clear why a descending major-second-minor-second motif begins to push to the front already much earlier – as it is part of this Setu theme. Hopefully the musical context will make it possible to perceive it ambivalently – the wailing may at some unexpected moment turn to jubilation. And these almost ineffable shared parts between extremes that would appear to preclude each other have become more and more important to me.

To borrow from Doris Kareva:

All bodies are fully
different as rivers
on their way to the ocean.

The same spirit
flows in everything.

Erkki-Sven Tüür



Sarasota Symphony Orchestra, cond. Anu Tali. 2. - 5. 02. 2017. Van Wezel. Sarasota. Florida. USA


Twice in the past week, an exhilarating element has been inserted into Sarasota Orchestra programs: thought-provoking, mind-expanding new music. This weekend's concerts featuring the expansive Symphony No. 6, "Strata", by Erkki-Sven Tuur, follow a full-concert length conceptual composition, "Sinking of the Titanic" by Gavin Bryars. Both are sensational, pleasing many audience members, and, perhaps, annoying a few others. This is the standard response to new music in this community.

However, it is the imperative of any healthy orchestra to reach beyond the comfort zone of its musicians and its audience and Anu Tali is just now beginning to push all of us in to new territory. I love it, even if I feel I don't "understand" the music on first listen. The composer, Tuur, addressed the audience before the concert, encouraging us not to seek full understanding, but to "just be moved by the energy of the music." He said he wanted to "touch your creative energy" and hoped to "stimulate your creative actions."

Wise words given. I found that as long as I was listening with critical ears seeking to label, assess, and discern the structure, it was difficult to connect with what I was hearing. Well more than half of the composition consisted of a massive wall of sound, like a sheer face of granite. It was impossible to imagine this music in any other terms than geologic. Within the wall of shifting strings, dynamic swells, and percussive punctuations, appeared glittering flecks of color; the winds in the high ranges caught the ear like strands of mica in that granite wall. In this seemingly monochromatic facade were a dazzling variety of shades and constantly shifting textures.

Eventually the wall crumbled away to more pliable melodic material expressed by solo vibraphone, bowed as well, and cello. Conductor Tali, to whom the work was dedicated when premiered by her Nordic Symphony Orchestra in 2007, crafted the sound as if it was truly her own. The energetic denouement offered a quiet space for contemplation as the work concluded with a soft drum roll. Had it been on an LP, I would have dropped the needle at the beginning again (or hit the back arrow for digital replay.) (---)

Herald Tribune   Gayle Williams  03. 02. 2017


Sandwiching “Strata,” the Symphony Number 6 of contemporary Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür, between two of the most beloved and well-known works of 19th century Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a stroke of magic on the part of the Sarasota Orchestra and Music Director Anu Tali. First of all, the Tüür added a freshness and difference that’s necessary in concert halls these days. It also showed us how much can happen musically in just over a century. And, believe me, it’s a lot. And it gave the Orchestra and Tali a chance to present the Symphony in its United States premiere.


Mr. Tüür was in attendance at the concert at the Van Wezel Sunday afternoon  and he spoke to us briefly and eloquently before any of the music began. He invited us to enter what he called his “sound world,” and to use our differences to interpret his world. A few days before the series of four concerts (all well attended or sold out), I had the opportunity to speak with the composer and one of the things he described was the landscape of his home and studio on the coast of Estonia. He described walking with the forest on one side and the ocean on the other so my imagination was already primed to hear “Strata” (Layers), as if I were walking with him.

“Strata” is, indeed a world of sounds: forest murmurs, crunching leaves, winds rustling bare, cold tree limbs, waves crashing against the shore, someone being chased through the woods. How does Tüür achieve these sounds? He uses a full orchestral contingent with heavy brass, strings playing ponticello (the bow is right on top of the bridge making an eerie, whistling sound) and a percussion section that runs the gamut from bongos and chimes to vibraphone and xylophone.

Music is unified, organized sound and “Strata” certainly is organized. It’s fascinating in that it held my attention and, at times, moved me. It has no program attached; no story. It’s up to us to add our own imaginations. The question is, well written as it is, is its intellect in overdrive, washing out what we think of as Music? I’ll leave that up to the listeners. For me, it was interesting but I was so glad my old friend, Tchaikovsky, was also in attendance.   June LeBell  05. 02. 2017


Magdeburgische Philharmonie, cond. Anu Tali. 28.01.2010. Opernhaus, Magdeburg.


(---) Im Sinfoniekonzert debütierte die Magdeburgische Philharmonie als erstes deutsches Orchester mit der eigens Anu Tali gewidmeten Sinfonie Nr. 6 " Strata " ihres Landsmannes Erkki-Sven Tüür. Ein mächtiges energetisches Werk, voller musikalischer Veränderungen und Instrumentationsgeheimnisse, auf die es lohnte, sich einzulassen. 

Bei verwischenden Rhythmen, wirbelndem Auf und Ab und interessant eingesetzter Instrumentationstechnik entdeckte man spannende Klangwelten zwischen ineinander kullernden Bläsern, Flageolettschleiftönen der Streicher, einem Duett von Harfe und Klavier, auch klaren Celli- und Bratschen-Themen, einem effektvoll flirrenden Tonbandeinspiel und den Möglichkeiten des Instrumentariums von fünf Schlagwerkern. Anu Tali entschied sich hier für ein hilfreiches geradliniges, fast schulmeisterliches Dirigat. (---)   Ulrike Löhr



Symphony No. 5 for Orchestra, Bigband and Electric Guitar Play

(audio excerpt from 4th movement)



2222, 4331, 1+3, strings

bigband: 5 saxophones, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, electric bass guitar, drumset

Fp: Martin Scales (guitar), SWR Big Band, SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Olari Elts

February 1, 2005, Stuttgart Theaterhaus, Eclat New Music Festival

Commissioned by: Eclat New Music Festival & Südwestrundfunk

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: Symphony No 5 / Prophecy   Ondine ODE 1234-2


Program note

Musical trends that developed independently of each other for decades have over time formed completely separate discourses in the Western cultural sphere. To this point, it is rare for one circle to show a slightly more in-depth interest in a neighbouring field. A constructive and productive discussion is even more rare. All the various forms of contact tend to culminate in relatively superficial crossovers that generally pay lip service to a concealed or direct chase for popularity.
I became clearly aware of this situation when I agreed to write a major musical work commissioned by Stuttgart Broadcast for their big band and symphony orchestra. I wanted to add two free improvisations from an electric guitarist with a rock background.
Fortunately the wish was understood and thus the foundation for “trilateral negotiations in a constructive atmosphere” was laid – representatives from the fields of jazz, rock and modern symphonic music should meet.

Symphony No. 5 is divided into four parts. The “genetic” code of the music is common to all of the movements, only the ways in which it mutates are different. Thus the stylistic references to rock and jazz are only of the tonal and rhythmic kind.

The first movement consists of a number of undulating wave-like currents. Of these, whirlpools come to the fore, broadening and lengthening and mostly changing direction through “chord bubbles” which are created by the big band and symphony orchestra brass sections and which melt into one another. Focusing on one sound, and forking from it, moving up and down, the big band’s increasingly more frequent interjections and the general rise in intensity helps to set up the first guitar solo, which occurs above a low C pedal point formed by the bass instruments in the segue between the first and second movements.

The second movement is slow, oriented to string instruments, and initially in a very high register. What is happening here could be called the birth of melody. The intervallic sequence familiar from the first movement mutates thanks to directional changes within the sequence. The music incrementally grows into a large wave-like culmination which seems to congeal and then fall back to the lower register; then the aerate layer of harmonics and the delicate ripple played by the winds comes in, which serves as a bridge to the third movement.

The third movement, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, is “something completely different”, but truly so – no joke. It is nothing if not a modern scherzo. The big band has the leading role. Some of the improvisational solos, rhythmic shifts and the accumulation of energy could be the keywords. The melodic motifs that were born in the second movement now find completely different rhythmic trappings.

In the fourth movement, the winds continue their rippling familiar from the end of the second movement and develop the ripples further, gradually involving other instrument groups. An angular bass line punctuated by temple blocks and another mutation of the original genetic sequence, interjected into by the strings, come in. This combination of sounds grows into a very noisy union of big band with orchestra, into which the second guitar solo melts. It all culminates in the Biggest Bang, the decaying repercussions consisting of vibrating surreal chords alted with microintervals. The point we have now arrived at could be the beginning of music that sounds like a strange echo in the ears of the listener after the last sound has actually been played. Whatever could this music sound like?

Erkki-Sven Tüür


Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, UMO, Nguyên Lê (el.guitar) Olari Elts (conductor)

Oct. 23. 2013 Helsinki Music Center

Monolith by Erkki-Sven Tüür combines a symphony orchestra, a big band and a rock-oriented electric guitar

I would even claim that the splendid fifth symphony by Erkki-Sven Tüür (b. 1959) is firm proof that philosophy of life, and why not religion, too, can and should be taught in the same classroom to representatives of all traditions. In his monolithic symphony, Tüür  combines a symphony orchestra, a big band and a rock-oriented electric guitar in such a way that not one of them forfeits its inherent identity and all contribute to the common goal. Musicians brought up in different traditions do not evolve an artificial Esperanto among themselves; they speak the same topic and themes in their own languages.

The Estonian composer has created a minor miracle.

The late-20th-century pluralists constructed polyphonic tours de force (Berio) or pieced together collages open to interpretation (Zimmermann), but Erkki-Sven Tüür achieves singular organic growth out of multi-rooted material. The at times aggressive gestures of the symphony orchestra brass call forth, in an imperceptible transition, the rhythmic gestures and improvisational comments characteristic of the UMO big band. The unwavering HPO strings comp a backing for even the most edgy solos of charismatic Nguyên Lê. Tüür has a rare way of carrying his baton from the post-serialist world to the clubs and taverns.

The ever energetic Olari Elts and HPO performed Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements as a warm-up act.

Helsingin Sanomat 25.10. 2013  Lauri Otonkoski

Symphony No. 4 "Magma" for Solo Percussion and Orchestra

Dedicated to Evelyn Glennie



solo percussion, 3042, 4331, strings

Fp: Evelyn Glennie (perc.) Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Kwamé Ryan

December 12, 2002, Koningin Elisabethzaal, Antwerp, Belgium

Commissioned by Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: "Magma", EMI Virgin Classics (2007); Evelyn Glennie, Estonian National SYmphony Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi


Program note


Figuratively speaking, the dramatic tension in Magma comes from a meeting of a dark granite mass and a transparent cloud of crystal latticework. We see this contrast right at the beginning: after a “chord pyramid” based on the full sound of an orchestra rises from the low registers to the heights, we are discharged into a shining, cold space. This is formed by rapid passages on the glockenspiel, surrounded on one side by a texture containing an echo effect consisting of short but even, lengthening rapid replies from the winds (no aleatory by the way); and on the other by a string pad laid down senza vibratoin very long note lengths. The musical source material is common to both contrasting blocks and is based on six 17-note scales. They are varied and synthesized among themselves throughout the entire course of the work. This takes place on both a horizontal and vertical level. Subsequently the motion eases up, and we encounter the next “chord pyramids” played fff, then again the glockenspiel, vibraphone and winds at a notch more intensity and the “pyramids” a third time. Further development is structured on the basis of serialist and heterophonic principles. The percussion soloist makes the vibraphone, winds and bongos resonate to the movement of the masses of sound created by strings until he finally moves to the drumset. The first half of the work, which ratchets up the tension, culminates in an improvisational solo, which melts into the next “chord pyramid”. The tempo slows down, a descent to a cooler trench takes place; at times this section is like the reflection of the initial crystal cloud in the bottomless depths. Then the marimbaphone gives way to the congas, and from this point, everything is a long rise to the final culmination.

In Magma, I have placed special emphasis on timbre harmonies (by this I mean that certain groups of instruments playing together represent harmonic structure based on definite intervals, others on different ones, etc) and uniting a sonoristic concept with the concept of harmonic crowdedness. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart to the fantastic percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who suggested that I write her a percussion concerto, which turned into a symphony featuring a percussion soloist… and to de Filharmonie (Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra), who commissioned the piece.

(Magma – the hot molten matter in the earth’s core, consisting of a number of oxides, water and dissolved gases.)

Erkki-Sven Tüür



Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington DC  10. 06. 2010

The National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Kristjan Järvi


The National Symphony Orchestra has two more serious programs this month before surrendering completely to the pops concerts of summer. On one of those programs Thursday night, Estonian talent was on full display.

Guest conductor Kristjan Järvi led a concert anchored on the complex fourth symphony of Erkki-Sven Tüür, who also hails from Järvi's native Estonia.

The work, completed in 2002, began as a concerto commission for Scottish percussion virtuosa Evelyn Glennie but evolved into a one-movement symphonic work with solo percussionist. Glennie, who has been profoundly deaf since age 12, performs in these concerts at the Kennedy Center as part of the 2010 International VSA Festival, sponsored by the International Organization on Arts and Disability.

The opening theme evoked the symphony's subtitle, "Magma," as glissandi spewed through the orchestra over an eructating pedal tone in the contrabassoon. Glowing clusters formed in smears, with embers floating in high woodwind short notes and metallic percussion sparks.

Glennie moved from one set of instruments to the next spread out like an irresistible candy store of whiz-pops, doodads and noisemakers on the apron of the stage, marked off by three large musical sections. Her gyrations at a large drum kit in the second section recalled Tüür's youthful participation in the progressive "chamber rock" band In Spe, complete with a Buddy Rich-style apoplectic solo as a cadenza.

In the third section, the magma flows returned, only for the score to take a detour through a Caribbean-inflected dance, with Glennie on conga drums, culminating in a finale in which she returned to many of the previous instruments.

Järvi had a relaxed manner, preferring playful gestures, broad body movements and humorous looks to a strictly clear beat. (---)

The Washington Post  June 11, 2010. Charles Downey



Performing Arts Center, Newark   USA premiere 10. 10. 2008

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, cond. Neeme Järvi

NJSO comes through with flying colors

It's always heartening to see difficult things done just the right way, as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra did in Newark and New Brunswick this weekend. The NJSO presented new music -- typically a challenge in the classical realm -- not dutifully or dryly, but with pizzazz and a sense of occasion.

Of course, it helped that the music itself -- Erkki-Sven Tuur's Symphony No. 4 "Magma" -- was intriguing and outgoing, both minimalist and maximalist in the Estonian composer's rock- and jazz-influenced way. And it was the Scottish Evelyn Glennie, the world's top classical percussionist, playing the work's concerto-like solo role. Neeme Järvi was back as conductor, too, starting his final season as NJSO music director by continuing to promote the music of his native country. But there were other touches that framed the music ideally, such as the atmospheric lighting.

In such a visual age, it's odd that this isn't done more often, but the NJSO put the house lights down, the players' music stands lit by lamps. Glennie's exotic battery of instruments -- from vibraphone and marimba to trap drums and gongs, even a big metal spring -- was arrayed in four stations in front of the orchestra and illuminated from below with red and purple lights. As rock bands discovered ages ago, the effect made for a fuller, more concentrated sensory experience.
Tuur, who turns 49 this week, didn't just fly in to take a bow at the NJSO's North American premiere of his work. He was in the state for the week, sitting in on rehearsals and giving seminars for young composers and percussionists. Tuur and Glennie, 43, also engaged with the audience at post-concert chats. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center was less than half full on Friday, mystifyingly; it was encouraging, though, that dozens of listeners stayed to ask about the soloist's instruments and the composer's inspiration.

Glennie, made a dame commander of the British empire last year, is a natural communicator, charming the crowd with her Scottish burr as she talked about the ergonomics of beating on things for a living (she avoids practicing too much). The bookish Tuur praised the sound of the orchestra and the way "the panorama of colors" mixed in the hall. He also explained how he searched car-repair shops to find just the right spring for the aural effect he envisioned, finding that those from "Opels sound best."

All about flow and color, "Magma" is also a kind of instrumental theater (and so it came across better in the flesh than it did on the recording released last year featuring Glennie and Järvi's eldest conducting son, Paavo). Watching Glennie play -- even striking a woodblock or fingering a chime as she walked from one percussion station to another -- is fascinating in and of itself, as well as inspiring. Famously, she is deaf, playing barefoot to better feel the vibrations of the orchestra and having to keep a close eye simultaneously on the conductor, the score and her instruments.

Tuur's percussion writing is never square or clattering, the rock and jazz influences not too blatant. Glennie showed her incredible sense of time and texture as the sounds moved from the metallic to the woody and back again, including a backbeat-driven solo cadenza on the drum kit. A highlight of the piece was the beautiful passage for five-octave marimba, mellifluous over dark glissandi and long sustained notes in the strings. The end was striking, as a flourish on vibraphone rang out as if charged by electricity, eventually falling away under a last stroke of the chimes. (---)

The Star-Ledger  October 12, 2008, Bradley Bambarger


Alte Oper, Frankfurt. 06. 09.  2007. hr-Sinfonieorchester, Evelyn Glennie, Paavo Järvi.

(---) Tüürs Musik zeigt unter anderem, warum die Endlosdebatte um Programm- und absolute Musik zu Ende ist: Die Themenstellungen haben sich verschoben. "Magma" kann einerseits als Programmmusik aufgefasst werden, in der das Fließen von Energieströmen (inklusive einiger Eruptions- und Versteinerungs-Effekte) mehrschichtig dargestellt ist, andererseits als eine Erprobung der Tragfähigkeit und Bruchsicherheit der sinfonischen Form.

Die Position der Solistin
Vor allem für den letzteren Test ist Evelyn Glennie zuständig, die Solistin am Schlagwerk. Sie ist, wie bei einem Solokonzert, vor dem Orchester positioniert, andererseits ist ihr Part viel stärker als integrierter Teil des orchestralen Gesamtklangs konzipiert, als die solistische Position vermuten ließe.

Tüür hat seiner Sinfonie ein traditionsbewusst vierteiliges Formschema zugrunde gelegt. Allerdings sind die vier Sätze nicht mit Generalpausen abgesetzt, sondern gehen ineinander über. Nur die Solistin ist verantwortlich für die Markierung der Umschaltpunkte. Der erste Satz ist durch einen metallischen Instrumentenpark charakterisiert; im zweiten Satz sitzt sie an einem klassischen Drumset, wie man ihn in der Rockmusik verwendet (wobei wenig Tomtoms und Bassdrum kaum eingesetzt werden); der dritte (langsame) Satz gehört dem Holz (Marimbaphon, Woodblocks), der vierte wird von Congas bestimmt und bekommt eine entsprechend tänzerische Anmutung.

Keineswegs ist es der Parameter Rhythmus, der den Gang der Dinge in Tüürs Sinfonie dominiert, das Schlagwerk wird eher zur Erzeugung, Verstärkung oder Überhöhung von Klangfarben eingesetzt; die rhythmische Erscheinungsweise ist eher unvermeidliches Begleitphänomen; über längere Passagen haben die Geigen mindestens genau so profiliert ihren Anteil an den rhythmischen Aufgaben wie das Schlagwerk.

Evelyn Glennie ist eine raumgreifende Feinmotorikerin: unwiderstehlich und omnipräsent, ohne brachial zu wirken; expressiv, ohne Präzision vermissen zu lassen; dynamisch von traumsicherer Differenziertheit und bei aller Bühnenpräsenz immer fugenlos ins Gesamtbild integriert. Man kann sich sehr gut vorstellen, dass es ihre individuelle Spielweise war, die Tüür angeregt hat, ihr diese Schlagwerksinfonie geradezu auf den Leib zu schreiben. (---)

Frankfurter Rundschau.  08. 09. 2007  Hans-Jürgen Linke


Paavo Järvi dirigiert Erkki-Sven Tüürs "Magma" FRANKFURT. Der Begriff "Magma" könnte auch auf Programm-Musik verweisen. Doch er scheint ein treffend gewählter Titel für die vierte Sinfonie des estnischen Komponisten Erkki-Sven Tüür. Denn das 2002 konzipierte, bei einem Beitrag des hr-Sinfonieorchesters unterder Leitung seines Chefdirigenten Paavo Järvi zum "Auftakt"-Festival der Alten Oper gespielte Werk ist dadurch charakterisiert, dassTüürs Gespür für spannungsreiche Kontraste, ein Kennzeichen seinesPersonalstils, in ein Klangfluss-Kontinuum eingebunden wird, das ungeachtet zahlreicher Perkussionselemente den Eindruck von Flächigkeit hinterlässt. Tüürs Sinfonie ist eine Musik für umfangreichesSolo-Schlagzeug und Orchester und wurde der vorzüglichen Musikerin Evelyn Glennie sozusagen auf den Leib geschrieben. Die Solistin zeichnet sich durcheine zuweilen atemberaubende Behendigkeit spielerischer Aktionen, aber auchdurch eine differenzierte Geschmeidigkeit ihrer Technik aus. Beides steht in Tüürs Opus immer wieder im Mittelpunkt. Dennoch ist es keinSchlagzeugkonzert mit Orchesterbegleitung geworden. Die Solistin scheintvielmehr eingebunden in einen Prozess der Verflüssigung, Erstarrung, Verschmelzung, Verzweigung. Die pausenlos gespielten vier Abschnitte einer sinfonischen Form sind akustisch deutlich auszumachen,optisch zudem nicht minder eindeutig, weil Evelyn Glennie in jedem Abschnitt die Position für ihr jeweils unterschiedliches Instrumentariumwechseln muss. Dass der Komponist in jungen Jahren eine Rockgruppegeleitet hat, scheint in einem scherzoartigen Formteil seiner Sinfonie durch. Die Solistin traktiert hier ein "normales" Drumset aufabenteuerlich virtuose Weise. Sobald sie über die Bühne zur Marimbaschreitet, beginnt der vorletzte Abschnitt. Hier kommt die Musik erstmals zur Ruhe. Am Ende wird thematisch ein Bogen zum Beginn geschlagen. Das Werkklingt unspektakulär aus, ist aber dennoch ein facettenreiches,emotional packendes, in mancher Hinsicht polystilistisches und doch eigenständiges Musikstück. Nicht nur Evelyn Glennie erhielt für ihreexorbitante Leistung überaus herzlichen Beifall, auch der anwesendeKomponist wurde freudig begrüßt. (---)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung   Harald Budweg


(---) In Frankfurts Konzerthaus ist Tüür aber schon längst kein Unbekannter mehr. 1999 wurde vom hr-Sinfonieorchester unter Hugh Wolffs Leitung Tüürs Violinkonzert uraufgeführt, im November 2006 dirigierte Järvi die Uraufführung seines Klavierkonzerts, dem die Affinität des Komponisten zum Schlagwerk ebenfalls anzuhören ist.
Erkki-Sven Tüürs 4. Sinfonie "Magma" nun ist eigentlich ein Schlagzeug-Konzert mit sinfonischem Anspruch, ein sinfonisches Konzert. Die Schlagzeugerin Evelyn Glennie hat es angeregt und ist auch, wie berichtet, auf der aktuellen EMI-Einspielung mit dem Nationalen Sinfonieorchester Estlands unter Paavo Järvis Leitung zu hören. Im Live-Erlebnis wird noch deutlicher, dass diese Schlagzeugerin eine wahre Schlagzauberin ist: Am einigermaßen magisch illuminierten Riesen-Schlagzeug, das vor dem Orchester positioniert ist, wandelt sie von Instrumentengruppe zu Instrumentengruppe. Jedem der vier Abschnitte von Tüürs 4. Sinfonie ist nämlich ein dominanter Klangcharakter zugeordnet, und Evelyn Glennie beschwört metallischen und hölzernen Sound mit traumwandlerischer Sicherheit und choreografischer Anmut. Im Werk selbst sind spannungsvolle Kontraste zwischen gewaltiger Eruption und Passagen kammermusikalischer Auflichtung konstitutiv. Die Rettung des Zeitgenössischen aus dem Geist von Rock und Pop, die man da hören mag, klingt manchmal (etwa im Dialog mit der süßlichen Solovioline) so entwaffnend schlicht, dass man seinen Ohren kaum traut. Die magmatischen, beunruhigenden Klangströme im Orchester sind aber stärker als tonale Idyllen. Der vierte Abschnitt, den die Congas einleiten, müsste in seiner lustvollen Rhythmik fabelhaft zu vertanzen sein.
Wagners "Meistersinger"-Ouvertüre hatte das Konzert in straffer Klangprachtentfaltung eröffnet - und bildete mit der 1. Sinfonie c-Moll von Johannes Brahms und ihrem apotheotischen, glänzend gespielten Finale eine festliche-üppige Rahmung, einen Goldrahmen für Tüürs Opus. Järvi und Evelyn Glennie signierten nach dem Konzert ihre neue Tüür-CD. Das Gedränge am Verkaufstisch ließ darauf schließen, dass das Werk in Frankfurt einige neue Freunde findet.

Wiesbadener Kurier  08.09. 2007   Volker Milch

Symphony No. 3

1. Contextus I

2. Contextus II



2222, 4231, 1+3, harp, strings

Fp: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Arvo Volmer

April 4. 1997  Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn

Commissioned by Estonian National Symphony Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: "Flux" ECM (1999); Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Dennis Russell Davies

Program note


Perhaps what I do in my Symphony No. 3 is look at one journey from two different perspectives. And this is why it has two movements. I don’t see any point in retelling these two different and yet so similar stories. I am not sure if the listener will get a richer experience if I initiate him or her into certain details of the musical structure (that everything starts from the central tone G, around which a 12-tone series little by little forms, which is one of the thematic foundations on which the entire work is built; diatonic theme created by the motoric repetition of the same G becomes the other and the relationship between them is one of the most important sources of tension in the symphony, etc, etc.)
     For me, writing music is above all a process of organizing meaningful movement of spiritual and emotional energy. No matter what sort of dramatic space you are creating, one has to make rational and intuitive decisions. The fact that from the aspect of psychology of perceptions I am especially interested in tensions created in the interaction of atonal and tonal material, is no news – these tensions existed already in the Symphony No. 2 written ten years ago.
     Actually, I would like some writer to turn a novel of theirs into a short capsule musical work a couple minutes long. This would help us better understand the essential, for which reading is not enough…

Erkki-Sven Tüür


Symphony No. 2

1. Vision

2. Process


3043, 6331, 1+4, synthesizer, piano, strings

Fp: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Paul Mägi

November 22. 1988 Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn

Publisher: Fennica Gehrman

CD: Warner Apex (2003); USSR State Orchestra of the Ministry of Culture, cond. Paul Mägi

Symphony No. 1

1984 / revised 2018



Fp. new version Febr. 20. 2020

EAMT Concert Hall, Tallinn. Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, cond. Tõnu Kaljuste


In memoriam Lepo Sumera



2232, 4331, 1+4, strings

Fp: Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, conductor Ralf Otto

December 1, 2000, Christuskirche, Mainz, Germany

Commissioned by: Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD "Exodus", ECM (2003)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conductor Paavo Järvi

Program note


Erkki-Sven Tüür: “Aditus (approach, access, entrance, beginning, chance) is a 9-minute concert opener based on the gradually lengthening chromatic scale. This is mixed with another row: 1112336332.
     The starting impulse is given by brass and tubular bells but the elastic resistance of the floating string chord will ground it three times before the active rhythm will break through. The rhythmic section grows to the climax by using multitonal harmonies and the end is an illuminative dispersion.”



Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York. Febr.24, 25, 26. March 1. 2011

New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Paavo Järvi


(---)Mr. Jarvi opened his program with Erkki-Sven Tuur’s short, evocative “Aditus” (2000; revised 2002) an essay in opaque, brass-heavy, sustained chords that gradually melt into rhythmically varied, invitingly wiggly themes. The Philharmonic played it with muscle and gracefulness, as the work’s shifting sensibilities demanded.

The New York Times, Febr. 25, 2011. Allan Kozinn


(---)Yet the nine minutes of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Aditus (a word meaning, in the composer’s words, “approach, access, entrance, beginning, chance”) showed a daring and exciting craftsmanship in a stunningly colorful exercise. (---)It was in memory of Professor Sumera that he wrote Aditus, and I would love to have space to explain Tüür’s exegesis on “vectorial…meta-language” music. This involves “a source code…a gene which, as it mutates and grows, connects the dots in the fabric of the whole work.”

His subsequent words are more specific, but Aditus, on first hearing, is a tense volcanic series of scales running up and down the orchestra (mainly in the brass). Those scales start in the first measure, become louder and louder, but never slow down or cease their tension. This, after all, was supposed to be a celebration of Tüür’s mentor, and the waves of sounds were as joyous as they were weaving on the cusp of hysteria.
Only in the final measures did the orchestra hush down to a softness, to a recognition, perhaps, that the man had died.
Even without the composer’s musical explanation, Aditus was a dazzling introduction to his music, and Mr. Järvi got the Philharmonic to pump up their own excitement, making the “meta-language” meteoric.   Harry Rolnick



Barbican Hall, London. February 24, 2005

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi  

This concert began with the London premiere of Erkki-Sven Tüür's nine-minute masterpiece Aditus (2000, rev. 2002). The title Aditus ('approach, entrance, access') alludes to the work's conflicting forces and contrasting sensations that collide and retreat in rising, sinking, swirling movements striving for survival and escaping burial. The work is dedicated to the composer's friend and teacher Lepo Sumera (who died in 2000) "as a celebration of a great man."

Listening to Aditus for the first time I was struck by its originality of voice: Tüür is arguably one the finest composers alive today and yet does not come across as sounding 'contemporary' in the conventional sense of that term. Tüür's Aditus sounded archaically classical yet thoroughly modern at the same time, but without sounding ever like post-modern pastiche (---)  Tüür is a master of composition, a genius of autonomy, sounding unique yet also magnificently assimilative, coming to grips with the anxiety of influence with great aplomb, with traces of Schoenberg's Pelleas & Melisande and Strauss's Death & Transfiguration seeping through. The shimmering score of Aditus is rich, lush, voluptuous and violent, bursting at the seams - as if wanting to escape its angst-ridden self. Tüür is a brilliant orchestral virtuoso the likes of which we have not seen since Wagner and Strauss. The composer was there to share the enthusiastic applause with conductor and orchestra, who performed his complex masterpiece with great verve and virtuosity.

Alex Russell 




CONFIDENCE and command, exultation at music’s power: you felt these at almost every turn in this concert. They were there in every sweep of Paavo Järvi’s baton and left arm; in each department of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in the sombre beauty of Truls Mørk’s cello. And don’t forget the composers’ richness of thought and design, especially with Nielsen and the contemporary Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür encountered on top form. Tüür’s Aditus gave us nine meaty minutes of brilliantly individual, chiselled sounds, marked by contrary motions, motifs and textures, and steps climbing to Heaven or descending to the grave — destinations fitting for a piece dedicated to the composer’s late teacher, Lepo Sumera. Finished in 2000, revised two years later, this fizzing account was its London premiere; considering its marvels, not a day too late.  

The Times. February 26, 2005

Geoff Brown 





Cincinnati Music Hall. Oct. 21, 2004.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi 

Some people surf waves breaking onto the shore. Thursday night's Cincinnati Symphony audience got to do that at Music Hall. Via Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür's "Aditus," that is. The thunder in Tüür's seven-minute work, given its CSO premiere by music director Paavo Järvi, does suggest the elemental force of the sea ("as if you were being swallowed up by a huge wave," says Järvi). So do its frequent scale-wise passages and piling up of notes. Four percussionists on tubular bells, tam-tam, bass drum, suspended cymbal, wood blocks, tom-toms and vibraphone joined a huge CSO in a mix of swirls and eddies that furthered the analogy.

Other images came to mind, too, such as combat and "bombs bursting in air." However one hears it, with its grumbling winds, hissing cymbal, trombone and string glissandi and at one point, a vast rumbling low C, it's a powerful work. Thursday's audience seemed caught in the undertow. It should be a potent offering on the CSO's tour of Europe.

The program included two other works to be heard on the tour, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with pianist Helene Grimaud and Dvorak's Symphony No. 7. (---) 

Cincinnati Post. Oct. 22, 2004.

Mary Ellyn Hutton




Dedicated to City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Järvi



3343, 6331, 1+4, piano, strings

Fp: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi

October 26. 1999, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK

Commissioned by: John Feeney Charitable Trust

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD "Exodus" ECM (2003); City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi


Symphony Hall, Birmingham. 26. 10. 1999  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
cond. Paavo Järvi.  World Premiere

(---) Tuur is one of a number of distinctive new voices to have emerged from the Baltic states since perestroika, though until now his orchestral music has been best known here through recordings. Largely self-taught, he ran a rock band in Estonia in his 20s, while also studying composition at the Tallinn Academy, and his music seems the product of a mind not over bothered by the dogmas of style and language. It's dense, highly wrought stuff, which nevertheless carries quite a big emotional charge, and the Birmingham audience (a surprisingly small one, given that the second half of the programme was Mahler's Sixth Symphony) responded very positively to the superbly executed premiere.
Each life, taken separately, is an exodus, Tuur says, and his piece is "a composer's subjective sound image of a force that can defeat the undeniable". With or without that extra-musical background, it is still a hugely impressive achievement, packing a great deal into its 17-minute span, which maintains a constant pulsing until the very last few moments. But Exodus isn't at all a minimalist score - the busy figuration is constantly cross-cut with other rhythms and melodic profiles picked out against it, gradually accumulating momentum and tension, until it all explodes in a massive climax to which a drum-kit adds an anarchic edge. After that the textures thin, the motion calms down and only melodic fragments remain; a lonely Shostakovich-like melody wanders aimlessly for a few moments, and the piece evaporates in a haze of string chords.
The plotting of this trajectory is very confident, and there's something almost physical about the way in which Tuur 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. Intriguing stuff: Exodus certainly deserves some more performances.

Guardian. Oct. 28. 1999    Andrew Clements

(---) Järvi did, on the other hand, deliver an impressive first performance of Tüür's Exodus. Perhaps because of his background as a rock musician, Tüür sets out with a not too distant or obscure objective and devotes immense energy to getting there. The scoring of Exodus is brilliant throughout and its combination of high-speed stamina and repetitive figuration so relentless that it finds its way out - into an ethereal texture of comparatively sustained high-lying string sounds - only just in time.

The Times  Oct. 28 1999    Gerald Larner


Lincoln Theatre, Miami USA  09. 02. 2002
New World Symphony Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi

Any short list of the next generation's leading baton-wielders should include Paavo Järvi, who led the New World Symphony in a program of Scandinavian music Saturday night at the Lincoln Theatre. Son of noted conductor Neeme Järvi, head of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the 39-year-old conductor is making big musical waves in his own right in his inaugural season as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Saturday night in Miami Beach, Järvi showed just what all the buzz is about. The Estonian-born conductor elicited performances of remarkable refinement and gleaming clarity, demonstrating an impressive ability for nuance and balancing textures. Yet nothing was fussy or self-regarding about his direction, and the playing had tremendous sweep and vitality.
The opening work, Exodus by Erkki-Sven Tüür, demonstrated Järvi's ability to make a convincing case for a new and unfamiliar piece of music. Reflecting its title, Exodus is a journey reflecting "humanity's insatiable urge to escape constraints," says the Estonian composer. Like Järvi, Tüür, 42, played in a rock band as a youth, a populist inspiration that has clearly influenced his classical writing.
Scored for a large orchestra, Exodus is crafted with impressive confidence and stylistic flair. Unlike many works where the rock influence seems diluted or awkwardly grafted on to a symphonic canvas, Tüür's piece succeeds in fusing the raw energy of rock to orchestral forces. Exodus opens with untrammeled fury, with a rocklike riff for unison double-basses and vociferous brass chords cutting through. Eventually, the driving rhythms subside and the music softens to end on a peaceful note.
Järvi proved a committed advocate of his compatriot's music, eliciting playing of exhilarating virtuosity from the New World members, who were clearly as enthusiastic about this combustible music as the conductor.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  February 12. 2002     Lawrence A. Johnson


Carnegie Hall, New York USA  31. 02. 2003
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi

(---) Mr. Jarvi began with the New York premiere of "Exodus" (1999) by Erkki-Sven Tuur, an Estonian composer who lists Frank Zappa and the British art-rock band
King Crimson among his influences. The first half of his piece uses kaleidoscopic juxtapositions, with layers of swirling strings and combative brass bursts enveloping
everything from a Beethovenesque gallop to a brief string of jazz-tinged pitched percussion. This chaotic writing unfolds into a tranquil, texturally transparent closing
section. There were moments in the work's densest writing when the orchestra's strings seemed to flag, but mostly the musicians projected the level of energy that Mr. Tuur
demanded. (---)

New York Times  April 4. 2003   Allan Kozinn


Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff. UK  11. 01. 2012

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, cond. Olari Elts

(---) Fiery percussion was also a characteristic feature of Exodus, by Erkki-Sven Tüür, a symphonic poem dating from 1999. The title refers to Tüür's perception of humanity's insatiable urge to escape constraints. The music had a elemental quality, gradually gathering momentum and moving towards a cataclysmic outburst of sound. Yet everything about this score is tightly controlled, and the aftermath of this explosion of energy was equally intense, with Tüür's instinct for instrumental colour realising a glistening texture, every detail poised. Elts showed immense sympathy for his Estonian compatriot's vision. This was the high point of the concert. (---)

The Guardian Jan. 13. 2012  Rian Evans




2222, 4221, 1+4, strings

Fp: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Arvo Volmer

March 27, 1992, Tallinn, Estonia

Commissioned by: Estonian Radio

Publisher: Fennica Gehrman

CD "Searching for Roots" Virgin Classics (1997) Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

cond. Paavo Järvi

CD "Action.Passion.Illusion" Warner Classics (2005) Nordic Symphony Orchestra

cond. Anu Tali


Program note

In writing Zeitraum, I was attracted by the relations between two quite diverse conceptions of musical time. One extreme is to focus on only one almost imperceptibly changing sound or sound mass (with a harmonic texture at times brighter, at time dimmer). This is the “fixed,” unlinear time as opposed to the time that “flies”—quick, kaleidoscopic movement inserted in or using the “motionless” time as a background. I was interested in the tension between these to time conceptions, and in the third entity born of their relationship. 

Searching for Roots (Hommage a Sibelius)



3332, 6330, 1+4, strings

Fp: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Eri Klas

March 28, 1991 Finlandia Hall, Helsinki

Commissioned by: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD "Searching for Roots" Virgin Classics (1997); Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

cond. Paavo Järvi

CD "Hommage a Sibelius" Ondine (1991) Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

cond. Sergiu Comissiona




3 flutes, glockenspiel, strings

Fp: Estonian Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Toomas Kapten

March 28, 1995 Tallinn, Estonian Music Days Festival

Commissioned by: Estonian Composers' Union

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD “Crystallisatio”, ECM (1996); Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, cond. Tõnu Kaljuste

Deep Dark Shine



Strings (min. 54332)

Fp: Scottish Ensemble, Ensemble Resonanz, Trondheim Soloists

16 May 2020   Glasgow  The Bridge Festival

This premiere was cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic

Commissioned by The Bridge Partners - Scottish Ensemble, Ensemble Resonanz, Trondheim Soloists and PLMF Trust with support from the Creative Europe program of the European Union

Publisher: Edition Peters

L'ombra della croce

Dedicated to Manfred Eicher


5' 30''


Fp: Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste

Febr. 15th 2014  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia

Commissioned by Tallinn Chamber Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD: "Gesualdo" ECM New Series 2452  Tallinn Chamber Orchestra  cond. Tõnu Kaljuste


Dedicated to Richard Tognetti and Australian Chamber Orchestra


13' 10''

strings 66331

Fp: Australian Chamber Orchestra, leader Richard Tognetti

Nov. 5. 2011 Canberra Llewellyn Hall, Canberra. Australia

Commissioned by: Australian Chamber Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters


with Australian Chamber Orchestra

live at BBC Proms with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie & Paavo Järvi

Program note


Flamma (a blazing fire, blaze, flame in Latin)


I am delighted to say that this is already the second composition I have created for one of the world’s leading chamber orchestras, the magnificent ACO.

Flamma begins with a brief and extremely intense introduction. The double bass and cellos perform furious ascending passages that reach higher and higher in mutating chains. On this, the violins and violas form constantly shifting “sound clouds” that consist of up to 15-tone chords; at some point the introduction is led to its culmination by the violas with a melodic line that emerges from the contact of the sound clouds and ascending passages.

The extraordinariness of the culmination chord lies in the fact that the “low” instruments are playing in their highest and the “high” instruments in their lowest register.

The composition then starts unravelling through solos alternating with instrument groups. Ensembles are formed within the orchestra to contradict the full sound of the orchestra. The principal thematic development takes place slowly – this is achieved alternately by the first and second violins through constantly evolving repetitions. The same material is then presented in its so-called “frozen state”, like a chorale with homophonic texture played by the whole orchestra – at first it intersects the composition in fragments and only later appears in its entirety. We enter the summarising section of the piece in a position resembling the mirror effect: the first violins are playing ascending passages, supported by the static multi-tone chords “below”.

Fire is both a destructive and purifying force – indigenous Australians have understood it well and have tapped the idea extensively in their traditions. Hence the title, rich in allusions. Flamma is dedicated to the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti.


Translated by Pirjo Püvi



Nov. 5. 2011

Canberra, Llewellin Hall. Australian CHamber Orchestra, leader Richard Tognetti.

World Premiere


From out of the fire and into romanticism

At face value, the ACO's last touring program for this year looks like an odd grab-bag of goodies. In performance it reveals Richard Tognetti's nearly unerring ability to draw together strands that connect and enlighten each other.

Through Barbara Blackman, that patron saint of new music (Tognetti's description), the ACO has commissioned a second new work from the Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tuur.

Flamma is a 17-minute series of pictorial evocations of the role of fire in our environment and psyche. Like some of our leading painters, Tuur's exhilarating music expands and contracts, settles and flares up again. He also refers obliquely to indigenous culture, particularly its chants, which tumble down an octave and renew themselves.

Yet for all its pictorial connotations, Flamma is a series of conjoined ideas about musical processes. Tuur ignites ideas that roar into ferocious intensity, fuelled by driving rhythms and stabbing chords, yielding desolate horizons of harmonics.

A Baltic composer can barely imagine the alarm of the citizens of Australia's towns and cities when fire sweeps down on them.

Tuur paints a vivid, at times terrifying picture of a force that can purify and destroy.

Quite accidentally, he has managed to do what few Australian composers have done: tapped into the psyche of those of us who face a long, hot summer. (---)

Vincent Plush, The Australian. Nov. 7. 2011


Nov. 9. 2011

Perth Concert Hall


(---) As curtain-raiser, we heard Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur's Flamma for strings, a work which enabled the ACO to demonstrate the skill which has earned it international plaudits. In Tuur's cleverly imaginative exploitation of the sonic potential of the strings section, we heard magnificently refulgent chords, grainy-toned passagework and moods which oscillated from the sombre to the joyful. (---)

Neville Cohn, The West Australian. Nov. 11. 2011


Nov. 16. 2011

City Recital Hall, Angel Place. Sydney


(---) The concert started in a darker, more contorted mood with the premiere of Flamma by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur. Flamma began with rough galumphing sounds on the lower strings set off against icy high notes, building to a climax that broke off to initiate a series of improvisatory solos based on arpeggiation of chords across strings. The work came across as an essay in mass and weight, building towards large chordal passages that wound down, flittered and rose again. (---)

Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald. Nov. 18. 2011

The Path and the Traces

dedicated to Arvo Pärt




Fp: Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste

June 29, 2005  St. John' s Church, Tartu, Estonia

Commissioned by Tallinn Chamber Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

CD „Magma”, EMI Virgin Classics (2007); Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi



Program note


I spent a few weeks on the island of Crete this March and took part in a lavish church service in the local cathedral to mark the beginning of Lent. It had a transcendent effect on me. The traditional singing of the ancient Greek church as sung by the fantastic cantors resounded nearly throughout the service. As a result of the experiences I gained I started composing a new work right there on Crete and called Tõnu who thought that an concert dedicated to the re-opening of St John’s Church in Tartu would be a suitable venue. I also thought that it would be my gift to Arvo Pärt on the occasion of his birthday.
     The harmonics on C strings of the violas and cellos form an axis that passes through the entire work and all of the material. The groups of chords form sound pillars, between which lingers a gradually thickening polyphony of melismatic melodies. As my composition method, I used the vectorial method that has become my hallmark in the last few years. The growing intensity on the emotional level reaches its limits at a certain point, and all that follows is a premonition of something that remains on the other side of the border.
     On a more personal level, what gives this music an additional dimension is that the period in which it was written coincided with the passing of my father.

Erkki-Sven Tüür






Fp:Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste

January 29, 2004  St. Nicholas Church, Tallinn

Publisher: Edition Peters





Fp: Bachwoche Ansbach Ensemble, conductor Thomas Hengelbrock

August 5. 1997  Ansbach, Germany

Commissioned by: Bachwoche Ansbach

Publisher: Edition Peters

1) CD “Flux”, ECM (1999); Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Dennis Russell Davies

2)CD “Desert Island”, Finlandia (2001); Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, conductor Juha Kangas

3)"Tüür" Warner Apex (2003); Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, conductor Juha Kangas


Britten Sinfonia, cond. Pekka Kuusisto

Nov. 24. 2013 Milton Court, London


(---) Outstanding in its exploitation of multifarious shades of orchestral colour and density,

the Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür's Lighthouse was given a performance as full of vitality as the work itself. (---)

The Guardian, Nov. 26. 2013. George Hall



(---) Even though all the pieces might have lead to Britten's Serenade, the musical highlight of the evening

was much earlier, with an exhilarating performance of Erkki-Sven Tüür's Lighthouse.

Even a generic performance of this piece would be an adventure, as the music is extraordinary in itself,

but Britten Sinfonia provided the piece with such intensity and controlled chaos that it transcended itself. (---)  Nov. 28. 2013 Renée Reitsma


Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

cond. Paavo Järvi

Dec. 9, 10, 11. 2018 Die Glocke. Bremen


Eingangs erklangen die flächigen Streicherintensitäten von Järvis Landsmann Erkki-Sven Tüür mit dem für die Bach-Wochen in Ansbach geschriebenen „Lighthouse“ (1997). Eine gut gespielte, grell leuchtende Explosion mit komplexen aufpeitschenden und sich überlagernden rhythmischen Impulsen. Immer wieder bestach die Mischung aus eindringlicher Melodie und betörenden Klangflächen. 12.12. 2016





Fp: Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste

October 25. 1993  Tallinn

Publisher: Fennica Gehrman

1)CD "Crystallisatio”, ECM (1996); Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, cond. Tõnu Kaljuste

(without Action)

2)CD "Action.Passion.Illusion" Warner Classics (2005) Nordic Symphony Orchestra

cond. Anu Tali


ACO Collective Australian tour, leader Pekka Kuusisto. Febr. 2016

In a radical approach to the programming of the first half, Kuusisto interwove separate movements of Erkki-Sven Tuur's Action-Passion-Illusion between the short works of three other composers. The device focused the mind on the ensemble, led a merry dance by their director, darting backwards and forwards through time and aesthetic sensitivities. Nico Muhly's Drones and Violin Part 1 – Material in E flat established the strongly textured character of the bracket. Kuusisto's playing has an effortless improvisatory feel in the way he approaches solos, and this freedom inspires a reflected confidence in the ensemble. I love the way that the piece commemorates the background sounds in our lives – the vacuum cleaners and refrigerator motor drones we pitch the activity of our lives against. The way in which Tuur harnesses diverse emotions in energetic, translated into rhythmic string composition is masterful. The cellos and basses become a rolling mass of sound in his imagination, snapping, stabbing syncopation and chording are his punctuation in the stories he tells.

The Canberra Times Febr. 8 2016

As a welcome to the concert, Pekka introduced himself as just that: Pekka, establishing a friendly intimacy with the audience. His Finnish origins and championing of new music were reflected in much of the program. Contemporary works by living composers, all of whom have a background in popular music, were set against mainstream classical works by Beethoven, Tippett and, of course, Sibelius.

The first half was a continuous stream of works by four different composers with some unexpected musical interconnections. Beginning with a tuneful hummed drone that moved to Pekka’s delicate solo violin, American composer Nico Muhly’s three minute Drones & Violin: Part 1 introduced an intriguing world of harmonic explorations.

This morphed into Action – Passion – Illusion: II Passion, the first of three sections of a work by the Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür. Action and Illusion were interpolated between Michael Tippett’s Variations on an Elizabethan Theme: II. A Lament and Tenebre by Bryce Dessner.

Erkki-Sven Tüür calls his pieces “abstract dramas in sound” exploring combinations of opposites: “tonality versus atonality, regular repetitive versus irregular complex rhythms, tranquil meditativeness versus explosive theatricality”. His description pretty well sums up the nature of the three movements and gives an indication of the virtuosity demanded of the players, especially in terms of musical collaboration. Even in the elegiac opening of Passion, it was a high tensile feat of sustained concentration and emotional power.

Tippett’s work was in stark contrast to the building intensity of Passion. A gentler voice echoed from Purcell’s time with musical references to Dido’s aria “Ah, Belinda” from Dido and Aeneas. Pekka’s account of the part for solo violin was notable for sensitive yearning and delicacy of touch. / Heather Lewiston 10.02.2016

(---)Of the moderns, prog-rock star turned classical composer Erkki-Sven Tüür was perhaps the most engaging. His Action – Passion – Illusion, written for the mighty Tallinn Chamber Orchestra in his Estonian homeland is a brilliant work for strings. Beginning with stamping march rhythms in clean, crisp harmonies (Action), continuing with an ecstatic interweaving of string lines rising out of cellos and basses (Passion), and culminating in an infectious energetic Nyman-like whirl (Illusion), it’s an accessible yet complex work that merits attention. Kuusisto imaginatively reordered the movements to help his programme in a move both bold and beautiful. 

Limelight Magazine. Clive Paget. Febr. 17, 2016

Insula deserta




Fp: Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, conductor Juha Kangas

October 8. 1989  Kokkola, Finland

Commissioned by: Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra

Publisher: Edition Peters

1) CD “Searching for Roots”, Virgin (1997); Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Paavo Järvi

2) CD “Estonia – Pärt Tüür Tubin”, Virgin (2002); Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

3) CD “Desert Island”, Finlandia (2001); Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, conductor Juha Kangas

4) CD "Ärkamine", Ondine (2011); Riga Sinfonietta, conductor Daniel Reuss