For me, composing is like making the design of a building, a cathedral or a theatre. And then I create a drama inside the space, with different characters and many forces. A lot of different actions. It’s about creating a certain form of living energy.
- Erkki-Sven Tüür
The sixth ECM New Series album by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür presents two major works, commissioned by the Hessische Rundfunk and given their premieres by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony orchestra. Both works are powered by what Tüür calls his “vectorial writing method”, a means of developing pieces from “a source code – a gene which, as it mutates and grows, connects the dots in the fabric of the whole composition.” The process, already reflected in works including “Oxymoron”, “Strata” and “Noesis”, has led to a body of work quite distinct from Tüür’s earlier, discursive ‘metalinguistic’ music in which diverse idioms – from serialism to minimalism – were contrasted, interwoven, reconciled. Tüür’s 21st century music foregoes “unnecessary eclecticism”, and manifests instead an organic coherence. These are pieces of determined, individual temperament. As Paul Griffiths observes in the liner notes, Erkki Sven Tüür’s 7th Symphony, written in 2009 and dedicated to the Dalai Lama “and his lifelong endeavours”, is a unique choral symphony, “a work where the orchestra has its own purposes, among which that of framing and supporting the voices is by no means paramount.” The texts that the NDR Choir sings include words of the Buddha from the Dhammapada as well as utterances of more contemporary visionaries and sages, from Gandhi to Mother Theresa. Once a text is used, says Tüür, if only minimally, “it starts to create meanings for an otherwise abstract musical material.” The physical power of the symphony then appears to be influenced and mediated by words addressing the power of compassion.
In the Piano Concerto, Finnish pianist Laura Mikkola gives an exceptional performance, responding to the surging waves of the orchestra and the inspired direction of Paavo Järvi. The concerto is a work of explosive energies, orchestra and piano moving on inter-related and intersecting planes, “continuous and continually in the process of meeting.”
Erkki-Sven Tüür was born in 1959 in Kärdla, on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa. Largely self-taught, he studied percussion and flute at the Tallinn Music School from 1976 to 1980; later, from 1980 to 1984 he studied composition with Jaan Rääts at the Estonian Academy of Music and took private lessons from Lepo Sumera. In 1979 he founded the chamber rock group "In spe", for which he was composer, flutist, keyboard player and vocalist. With the advent of "perestroika" Tüür’s music was heard outside Estonia. Success in Finland, initially, in the late 1980s, led to a number of commissioned works, including Searching for Roots (Hommage à Sibelius) (1990) for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Architectonics VI (1991) commissioned by the Helsinki Festival. Architectonics VI also appeared on his ECM New Series debut “Crystallisatio”, issued in 1996. His other ECM albums are “Flux” (recorded 1998), “Exodus” (recorded 2002), “Oxymoron” (recorded 2003 and 2006), and “Strata” (recorded 2007 and 2009).
Tüür’s works have been heard around the world and played by many international orchestras and ensembles including the Estonian State Symphony Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Dortmund Opera, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, American Waterways Wind Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, The Hilliard Ensemble, Piano Circus, The Grieg Trio, Cologne Radio Choir, Rascher Saxophone Quartet, and many others.
Laura Mikkola studied at the Sibelius-Academy in Helsinki, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the University of Indiana, Bloomington. She has been the recipient of many notable awards, and her early career was boosted by successes in the Queen Elisabeth, Unisda Transnet, Maj Lind and Maurice Ravel piano competitions. Mikkola has performed as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, Münchner Symphoniker, Royal Philharmonic of Flandres, Orchestre National de Belgique, Czech Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, Washington National Symphony Orchestra, Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgart Staatsoper Orchester, Essen Philharmonic and many others, and worked with conductors including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leif Segerstam, Philippe Entremont, Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Paavo Järvi. Since 2003, Laura Mikkola is the Artistic Director of the Iitti Music Festival in Finland.
Paavo Järvi was born in Tallinn, Estonia, in 1962. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with Max Rudolf and Otto-Werner Mueller, and at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute with Leonard Bernstein.
Paavo Järvi and Erkki-Sven Tüür have been allies for decades and Järvi has conducted Tüür’s compositions with orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic. At the time of the ECM recording of “Exodus”, Järvi declared himself “constantly amazed by the perfect balance between the intellectual and the emotional sides of Tüür’s music.”
Järvi has been principal conductor of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, and music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, he was named the CSO’s Music Director Laureate. Since 2004, he has been the artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen and an Artistic Advisor to the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. In 2006, he became the principal conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and in 2010 music director of the Orchestre de Paris. In 2015 he takes up a position as chief conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo.
CD booklet includes liner notes by Paul Griffiths, texts from the 7th Symphony, and photos from the recording