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Paavo Järvi & Estonian Festival Orchestra - Erkki-Sven Tüür: Mythos - Gramophone

It’s almost an indulgence to put three such significant, non-concertante orchestral works by Erkki-Sven Tüür, played by a virtuoso orchestra, on a single release. You may want to start backwards, with Sow the Wind … (2015), which despite not being ‘the symphony’ here is the most instantly satisfying manifestation of Tüür’s mature, arguably symphonic (and Nordic) working method: his use of a single gene or ‘source code’ which mutates and grows to fill the symphonic space and connect the dots.

The technical elements are reflected in the work’s concern with reckless human activity destroying the planet, heard in the gathering of small gusts into huge whirlwinds that tear the texture apart as driving, splintering rhythms threaten to derail the entire juggernaut but end up simply slamming it into a wall of silence. Some parallels exist with the actual symphony here, Tüür’s Ninth, commissioned by the Estonian government to mark the country’s centenary in 2018. It is dedicated to Järvi and was first performed by his orchestra in the performance captured here, in January of that year.

The work springs from Estonia’s Finno-Ugric avian creation myth, thus linking it with Sibelius’s Luonnotar. Sibelius and Lindberg loom large in the score, which hauls itself up from a rumble and into an inexorable, strained shattering of its own source-code during which an apparently many-headed orchestra seems to want to wrench itself into pieces. The culmination, hard-won thanks to the persistence of a looping upward scale, is one of peace. Tüür has always been generous enough to encourage individual responses to his music and I find it hard not to read this as Estonia’s journey to its current state of relative prosperity. The Estonian Festival Orchestra is a physical manifestation of that, and of Estonia’s new outward-looking optimism, and can rival its counterpart in Lucerne for reactivity, musicality, charisma and tone. All are apparent in the machinations of Incantations of Tempest (2015), commissioned by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra as an encore but used by the EFO as an opener. It is a muscular piece, minimalistic in concept only and another example of Tüür’s fascinating way with the orchestra.

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Gramophone
01 June 2020