Erkki-Sven Tuur: Oxymoron (ECM New Series/Ode)

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Erkki-Sven Tuur: Ardor Part III (Concerto for marimba and orchestra, 2001)
Erkki-Sven Tuur: Oxymoron (ECM New Series/Ode)

Contemporary classical music -- which often sounds like it comes from "elsewhere" -- sometimes gets a look in at these pages, especially if it is challenging. And this certainly is.

These four works by Estonian composer Tuur include a short piece for a male choir and an ensemble of clarinet, bassoon, trombone, percussion, oboe and so on; Ardor for marimba and orchestra (here the Estonian National Symphony); a short funereal work for violoncello and piano; and the 20-minute title piece for a large ensemble.

The opener suggests both a hymnal quality and the spare approach of Arvo Part; Ardor in three movements is tumultous, angrily percussive and quietly considered by turns; the urgent duet can be quite alarming in its sudden dramatic shifts but is also spacious and finds the pianist digging through the bowels the instrument; and the final piece opens like a pastoral suite in a barren icy landscape . . . and then the storm comes.

Frankly, I had never heard of Tuur but after this emotional slalom ride I concur with Martin Anderson of The International Record Review who wrote, "Tuur charges his scores with a primal energy that reaches past its textural complexity to speak directly to the listener. If you don't yet know his music, here's a fine place to start."

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