Erkki-Sven Tüür: Oxymoron (ECM New Series 1919)


Erkki-Sven Tüür

Pedro Carneiro marimba
Leho Karin violoncello
Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann piano
Vox Clamantis
NYYD Ensemble
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Olari Elts conductor
Ardor recorded March 2003 at Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn
Engineer and recording producer: Maido Maadik
Produced by Eesti Radio
Salve Regina, Dedication, Oxymoron recorded June 2006 at Estonia Concert Hall and Issanda Muutmise church, Tallinn
Engineer: Margo Kõlar
Recording supervision: Helena Tulve
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

Oxymoron is ECM’s fourth album dedicated entirely to the exciting music of Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. Each of its four pieces is recorded here for the first time.

The album opens with his 2005 Salve Regina for male choir and ensemble. Beginning with a plainchant-like tenor line amid pattering hand drum and dissonant clusters, it blossoms into the creeping breath of organ, whose quivering configuration leaves us primed and centered for Ardor. This concerto for marimba and orchestra (composed 2001/02) is characterized by engaging, halting rhythms and quick clusters splayed against a terse backdrop. The marimba would be enough to carry itself on its own, and seems not to need the orchestral accompaniment, but the harmonics of the flute, signaling a sustained drone from orchestra in the second movement, prove that Tüür knows what he is doing. As he traces each finely shaped footstep of percussion in the softer sands of the ensemble at large, the sound becomes fuller, more urgent and demanding, reaching a drummed frenzy in the sustained tone that concludes, only to die in a wisp of tide.

Dedication (1990) for violoncello and piano is the earliest piece on the album and is an especially welcome addition to ECM’s ongoing Tüür survey, which now tunes our ears to his uniquely detailed approach to chamber idioms at last. Here are his melodic skills at their most potent, at once straightforward and crafty.

The 2003 title piece on which the album ends is exactly what it professes to be, fusing contradictory gestures of form and execution in a seamless whole. The overall effect is colorful, almost jazzy, and intensely involving.

Tüür’s typically unstable lines are so alive that they develop their own biological signature through a wealth of successive properties. Here is a voice never content in being still, one that is always challenging itself, growing toward something infinite and nourishingly whole.

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