Tüür de Force

Some music defies description. Actually, all music defies it. Like a scent, it can only be compared to previously known scents, music to other music. Sometimes creative metaphors can give us insights. No matter how it’s worded, though, there’s always a degree of disconnect. Erkki-Sven Tüür’s music is a fragrance I can’t quite put my finger on. I find it familiar, yet unique; contemporary, yet hanging on to tradition; lofty & sophisticated, yet with a doesn’t-take-itself-too-seriously colloquial spin. For all these divergent attributes, his music deserves attention.

The title piece, “Magma,” is his 4th symphony, a single movement, half-hour work for solo percussion and orchestra, featuring the nearly deaf Evelyn Glennie on percussion. (If you don’t know Evelyn Glennie, you should get yourself acquainted.) But calling this a symphony is the composer’s call. I see it as a concerto; I hear it as a tone poem. The piece starts out with flowing, liquid qualities, then dives into the percussive—trap set, rock rhythms, pounding, driving—then returns to the fluid, poetic mode. It’s demonic and torturous; it’s lyrical and mysterious. It leads us through cool, turquoise ocean reefs and over searing, raw siena mountain passes.

Tüür’s bio is a clue to his music. He began his musical career as the leader of a progressive rock group, influenced by the likes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Frank Zappa, Genesis, and even Mike Oldfield. Later in the ’80s he makes his way to composing. He’s studied everything from Gregorian Chant to microtonality, and from this diverse background creates new music drawing on all those influences.

Three more works fill out the album. Each has its own qualities, each shows us another side of Erkki’s stylization that carries through his thought processes. Musical elements such as, looping glissandi, rich harmonic textures, expressive contrasts, and haunting chromaticism bound with decisive thematic structure. The last is a key element for holding his music together, or in pop terms, giving us a hook. And each piece gives us something new to bite into. If it weren’t for the common threads, you might guess there were more than one mind at work here. The contents hold enough variation to keep your interest peaked.

It’s a triple A on all accounts, music, performance, and sound quality. Rock fans have lots to capture their ears, and still, serious classical fans have plenty to challenge theirs.

Read his bio for more about him and his compositional approach : [Erkki-Sven Tüür]

(||) Rating — Music : A ║ Performance : A ║ Recording : A ║
 Erkki-Sven Tüür, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra & Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paavo Järvi, Magma, EMI Records/Virgin Classics, 2007

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