on 21 January 2008
Symphony no.2 (1987) is a bold work, in a markedly different style from many of Tüür's contemporaries in the region of Estonia and its neighbours, possessing an almost feral vigour which is not found in many works by minimalists or serialists. The alternations between quiet sections and raging dissonant fortissimos are slightly reminiscent of Giya Kancheli, but the emotions involved are far different - the symphony possesses an elemental quality to it (opposed to Kancheli's human horror).
The other major work on the disc, Lighthouse (1997), is in a more refined style (fewer pointed edges, more subtle transitions) and contains many moments of aching beauty, while retaining the primal quality of his earlier symphony. The work would appeal to fans of Allan Pettersson's middle symphonies as well as the romantic minimalism of Peteris Vasks, as it strikes something of a middle ground between the two.
The two Architectonics (1990) pieces are more avant-garde in feel, and as a result are more difficult for me to get a grip of and describe usefully. Played together, they are kaleidoscopic in their experimentation with form and instrumentation, providing interesting textures and diversified moods.
Conversio (1994) is a very enjoyable chamber piece, utilising some aspects of minimalism well, but without being a slave to the style. Beginning with an intimate and buoyant sound, rustic and joyful - recalling American minimalism somewhat - subtly develops into darker areas before ending with near-silent flutters of colour. This piece in particular points towards there being much more to discover in this composer's chamber music.
The pieces on this disc show a composer of quite varied styles, but all the pieces on the disc to some degree or another demonstrate Tüür's skill in writing rhythmically, as well as offering occasional pointers towards polystylism, although nowhere near as overtly as Schnittke or Stravinsky. It's a shame that the disc could not include the oratorio Ante Finem Saeculi which the symphony was originally coupled with (on Finlandia) as that would demonstrate his mastery in another genre, but we can hope for a future reissue.