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Tuur: Symphony No.4 "Magma" CD

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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  • Orchestra: Estonian National Symphony
  • Conductor: Paavo Jarvi
  • Audio CD (6 Aug. 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B000LPRNV8
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 302,913 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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The flagship work here is the "Magma" fourth symphony and the quality of playing and recording makes it a must for audiophiles. This is a richly scored work that seems to be driven by its own logic, like the lava flows that it portrays. The huge washes of orchestral colour are reminiscent of Magnus Lindberg's scores though Tuur's score isn't perhaps so tightly organised. Some may criticise this lack of symphonic rigour because the score relies heavily on the ever changing orchestral palette to maintain interest rather than being held together by tightly knit harmonic or melodic cells.

The symphony is essentially a large scale percussion concerto / rhapsody with an animated second section that recalls Tuur rockband background in his writing for the soloist. Needless to say that Evelyn Glennie is more than a match for the demands of the work. In spite of the lack of symphonic rigour it is an exciting showpiece.

The other works are attractive, offering a more restrained and lyrical music. This isn't "easy listening" minimalist music; the harmonies are rich and chromatic and Tuur is happy to work in a variety of styles. The music communicates very directly and I've enjoyed it very much. These smaller pieces have more than a hint of other Baltic composers such as Arvo Part or Peteris Vasks but Tuur is his own man with a strong individual voice. This recording is an absolute treat and a great springboard to explore his other works.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8b22ecf0) out of 5 stars 5 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ad6d2a0) out of 5 stars Tuur is a master, this music is not 21 Mar. 2008
By Sir Butternut Longsword - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I love Tuur and found this album to be his most recommended which is shcking considering it is the worst and I would favour any released on ECM over this. I did enjoy the three works accompanying the symphony 4 for percussion, but that work itself is pretty lame.
If you would like to hear why I consider Tuur one of the finest living composers-check out all of his ECM discs(proably Oxymoron last). The other three works on Magma will give you a better idea of what to expect and, at least I hope, the symphony 4 is not a tu(ur)n for the worst in this intersting and unique composers ouvre.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b02f708) out of 5 stars shedding the influences like the snake its skins 13 April 2010
By Discophage - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Erkki-Sven Tüür is one of the interesting composers that have emerged from the demise of the Soviet Union and of the overbearing rule of the twelve-tone derived avant-garde, and the reason why he is so is that, unlike many others, he has not relinquished all compositional exigencies in order to write just any kind of cheap neo-romantic rehash that comes out to his pen. The music is more original and has more dramatic impact than that.

In the previous works of his that I heard and reviewed, namely his Second Symphony and Oratorio "Ante Finem Saeculi", composed between 1985 and 1987, one could still distinctly hear the original mixture of radical Penderecki and less radical American-minimalism-to-World-Music (Tüür: Oratorio Ante Finem Saeculi/Symphony No.2). Well, now (three of the four compositions featured on this disc date from between 2002and 2006), the second branch of Tüür's stylistic mix is all but gone.

Remains, in the percussion symphony (2002), a raw power that fully deserves the title "Magma" chosen for the piece. Tüür's original grounding in rock music is much in evidence, especially in the mighty cadenza starting at 14:25. He calls it a "Symphony for solo percussion and symphony orchestra", but really it is a Concerto, or a Symphony Concertante. There is also a genuine sense of orchestral color, and a reminiscence of the "atmospheric" Ligeti from the 1960s is more perceptible than in Tüür's previous compositions. Evelyn Glennie is, as usual, stupendous. James MacMillan's "Veni Veni Emmanuel", also written for her, has found here a worthy mate (Evelyn Glennie: Veni, veni emmanuel or MacMillan: Veni, Veni Emmanuel).

A fine sense of atmosphere and shimmering colors also pervades "The Path and the Traces" (2005) for string orchestra, dedicated to the other big name of Estonian music: Arvo Päart, whose 70th birthday was in part the spur to the piece's composition. "Igavik" (Eternity) is a short funeral tribute for male choir and orchestra written in 2006 to the memory of Lennart Meri, former foreign minister and president of the newly-independent Estonia. It is based on rhythms and motives from Estonia's time-old Shamanic tradition, and moves from the sombre and brooding ritual chanting to more vehement utterances, but the music remains always quite simple. Ever heard of the French progressive rock band from the 1970s "Magma" and its invented language, the "Kobaïan"? That's a little what Igavik sounds like.

"Inquiétude du fini" is an earlier cantata, from 1992. And my minute of French philology: "Inquiétude du fini" is translated in the liner notes by "concern that it is over", but the meanings are much more subtle than that: "fini" is not only what is over, as in "c'est fini"/"it is over", but also the completed, as in "j'ai fini" /" I am finished", "I'm done", or the finite, as opposed to the infinite. "Inquiétude" is the state of being worried, anxious.

Already present are the sense of shimmering string colors (harking back to Penderecki's Threni for the victims of Hiroshima and Ligeti's Atmospheres), the brooding chant-like utterances from the chorus, the effective but unsubtle Carl-Orff-derived moments of pounding (which was a strong influence of the Magma rock band as well).

What is also in the cantata but gone in the more recent pieces is the atmosphere of romanticism of some parts, the gossamer passagaes in twelve-tone language (7:00), and the very beautiful and aetheral passage, very much in the style of "Gothic Voices", starting with women's voices at 8:58, the dance-music syncopations in the section starting at 11:05 (The British minimalists, Steve Martland and Michael Torke comes to mind). Like a kid in candy store filling his pockets, Tüür started very much as an eclectic but he seems to be shedding the influences like the snake its skins.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90187f84) out of 5 stars Underwhelming percussion concerto 4 Dec. 2008
By Autonomeus - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Tuur decided to call the percussion concerto he wrote for Evelyn Glennie his Symphony No. 4 -- "Magma." Here it is, performed by Glennie and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, led by Tuur's friend and compatriot Paavo Jarvi. It's not bad, but it's not great either. Repeated listening hasn't budged me from this lukewarm assessment.

The other three compositions on this disc are somewhat better, but all are minor works, and the disc does not cohere well overall. Two are choral pieces, "Inquietude du Fini" for chamber choir and orchestra, and "Igavik (Eternity)" for male choir and orchestra, which is less than 5 minutes long. "The Path and the Traces" is an impressive piece for string orchestra inspired by the island of Crete and Greek Orthodox plainchant.

"Magma" features a percussion solo, of course, a sort of rock concert interlude for drum-kit as second movement, but Glennie plays vibraphone and glockenspiel in the first movement, marimba and woodblocks in the third movement, and congas in the dance-inspired finale. I am struck by the Debussean orchestration and feel of this concerto/symphony hybrid.

A colleague recently maintained that Debussy is the reigning composer of our time, and I was initially skeptical, but it certainly seems as though many younger composers are retrenching from various avant-garde pursuits to a Debussean soundworld, including the Nordic/Baltic composers Saariaho, Lindberg and Tuur.

I do not see this as a good thing.

For a much better Tuur disc, see EXODUS on ECM, also with Jarvi conducting, but featuring his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b2bef3c) out of 5 stars Not as compelling as I thought it would be 24 Nov. 2007
By Frank Paris - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
My evaluation is probably just a matter of taste. There's no question on the quality of the performance or recording. Both are outstanding. But I just couldn't get into the music! I tried, listening to it several times, but I just wasn't drawn back to it. The percussion in the first work is kind of interesting to listen to with my premium headphone setup, but it just didn't draw me back. Also, I don't appreciate the jazz or rock roots of the music, whatever it is. It sounds too "pop" to me.
HASH(0x8b03a7e0) out of 5 stars An impressive symphony and some lesser works in excellent performances 3 Sept. 2011
By G.D. - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Here we get some of Erkki-Sven Tüür's more recent pieces, written between 2002 and 2006, coupled with one slightly older work. The style is certainly consistent, so much so that detractors might almost wonder why he's bothered to write more than a single work, yet Tüür's take on neo-tonal spiritual minimalism is actually rather compelling. To start with the earliest work, Inquiétude du fini was written in 1992 for small choir and chamber orchestra to a poem by Tõnu Õnnepalu (in French). The setting is generally homophonic with little formal development and just some textural bloomings and clusters in the strings. It is, in other words, a somewhat meandering affair and does certainly not reveal the composer at his significant best.

The fourth symphony, "Magma", dates from 2002 and is composed in a single, huge movement lasting more than 30 minutes. Virgin, in a ghastly example of poor judgment, allots it a single track (and to all record companies: don't! Even if it is a work in a single movement - and Tüür's fourth falls into four relatively clearly defined sections). It is really written for solo percussion and orchestra for Evelyn Glennie, who provides an utterly committed, often subtle and always glittering performance here. The first section opens with a mighty, massive flourishing verging on the brutal (clearly depicting a volcanic eruption). This is followed by more reflective sections dominated by glittering, soft percussion, though the patterns are unpredictable but creates a nice flow. The second section is an energetic Scherzo-like movement, and it is followed by a quieter movement and a shimmering, more assertive finale. The first movement is particularly impressive, but the slow movement sounds to me like a somewhat unsuccessful, reflective but meandering interlude (clearly an opportunity for revision). Overall, however, I found this to be an impressive work, and it is impeccably performed with shimmering textures, shattering energy, depth and subtlety.

The Path and the Traces (2005) is beautiful and deeply felt but static, being inspired by Orthodox chant in that familiar manner that means the bane of forward momentum. The short cantata Igavik (Eternity) from 2006 for male voices and orchestra is a rather fine little work as well, without exactly shaking things up. Overall, then, this is a recommendable disc for the mostly impressive fourth symphony. The rest is a little samey, but it is superbly performed and recorded making this disc a fine sampler of music by an important contemporary composer.
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