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The Ecstatic Other-worldly Sounds of Erkki-Sven Tüür

01 May 2017

Erkki-Sven Tuur, Ondine

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This album is not only perfect for classical music lovers that want to try something new, but also for sci-fi fans, audiophiles and their unsuspecting neighbours who will also enjoy this musical adventure.

The music of Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür was completely unknown to me before listening to this album. Keeping an open mind, I pressed play on the first track and became instantly mesmerized by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and clarinettist Christoffer Sundqvist in their performance of Tüür’s 2012 Clarinet Concerto Peregrinus Ecstaticus.

I am immediately reminded of the great romantic symphonists, along with Gershwin and Markus Stockhausen’s opera Donnerstag aus Licht, especially the second act “Michaels Reise um di Erde” (‘Michael’s Journey Around the Earth), in which the trumpetist travels around the Earth, encountering different lands and people in an intricately staged instrumental opera.

While it is possible that Tüür was inspired by Stockhausen’s work, it is also entirely possible that this connection was not in his mind when composing this work. While listening, I am reminded also of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, simply due to the long, lazy glissandos in the clarinet. Throughout the concerto, which lasts nearly 30 minutes, many other-worldly sounds are presented, in the form of short blubbering or shrieking motifs or massive swirling clouds of sound. All the while, Sundqvist’s solo takes center stage, soaring above the orchestra. He plays in such a way that everything sounds effortless and natural, even though the concerto is a technically challenging marathon. According to the composer, the concerto is based on the idea of transcendence.

Tüür: Peregrinus ecstaticus - Le poids des vies non vécues - Noēsis

In the highly detailed liner notes, Tüür’s complex compositional method is described in a general sense, pointing out his vast stylistic influences, eventually leading to a meta-style and the vectorial method. Furthermore, he describes his music as existing in three states—gaseous, liquid and solid—that are nearly always in transition.

Le poids des vies non vécues provides a fascinating orchestral buffer between the two concertos. Again, this work, which begins with a huge end-of-the-world bang, sounds other-worldly. The work is a tribute in the form of an instrumental elegy to “those whose lives have been disrupted”. Long, almost slow-motion melodies prevail, as if walking without gravity. The trombones make a vivid appearance, performing in a storm trooper-like manner, on the moon with elongated march melodies and enthusiastic glissandos. The Baroque element of lament is also captured through the continuously descending lines in the strings.

The final work, the double concerto Noēsis for clarinet, violin and orchestra, apparently refers to the cognitive ability of humans and the mental process taken to come to a realization. Noticeable in this work is the theme of ascension and dissension, along with strong dissonances and clusters of sound. The entire range of the human ear’s capacity, in terms of low to high, seems to be evident in this piece. Again, Sunqvist gives an impressive performance, this time together with violinist Pekka Kuusisto.

It is a wonderful experience to hear new music performed with such gusto from virtuoso soloists and a top orchestra. I can certainly imagine that these works were no small feat to record, but the recording quality is simply impeccable. The instruments are clear, yet there is enough resonance to create what seems to be a standard part of Tüür’s sound world.

This album is not only perfect for classical music lovers that want to try something new, but also for sci-fi fans, audiophiles and their unsuspecting neighbours who will also enjoy this musical adventure.

Melanie Garrett

Performance: 5
Sound: 5

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
Christoffer Sundqvist (clarinet)
Pekka Kuusisto (violin)
Ondine ODE1287-2


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