Nordic Symphony Orchestra, Anu Tali: Erkki-Sven Tüür: Strata (2011)

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Nordic Symphony Orchestra, Anu Tali: Erkki-Sven T&uuml&uumlr: Strata
So much late-20th and early-21st Century classical music has a movie soundtrack quality about it. Replete with dramatic crescendos and sinister diminuendos, these extended compositions sound as if they are trying to tell a story in a language not spoken. While that paradox is obvious, the effect is not exclusive. The music may be enjoyed on many levels—and on several at one time.

It is then no mistake that Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür claims that his, "pieces are abstract dramas in sound, with individual characters and an extremely dynamic chain of events; unfolding in a space that is constantly shifting, expanding and contracting." And that is exactly how they sound. The composer describes his method as "vectoral"; one that concentrates more on sound and its production than on harmony, allowing the sound to drive the theme of the material rather than a traditional motif.

In this fifth New Series installment of Tüür's music, Estonian conductor Anu Tali draws from her Nordic Symphony Orchestra this thin, yet definable, creative distinction using two recent Tüür compositions, the Symphony No. 6 "Strata" (2007) and "Noesis, Concerto for clarinet, violin and orchestra" (2008), the former being dedicated to the conductor and orchestra.

Both compositions are single-movement, medium-length musical affairs, together clocking in at about 54 minutes. Both are studies in dynamics of sound and its volume and color. This is music of cold climes, crystalline in presentation and definition. Silence is as sharply demarcated and sound in these pieces. In the same instance, dynamic designations like piano, mezzo-piano and such bear little meaning as they change so fast, requiring a new dynamic nomenclature.

Symphony No. 6 is moody and anxious, modulating through undulating strings and and brash brass. The low horns often rule, establishing a firm bottom to the music. Tethered to that are the strings and reeds, each given enough expressive freedom to impress without becoming overwhelming. "Noesis" shares similar structural attributes with the Symphony, providing fertile ground from which the solo instruments may spring. Siblings Jorg and Carolin Widmann play the clarinet and violin respectively, sharing a perspective not unlike that experienced by Lara and Scott St. John, captured on their very fine Mozart recording.

This music is not for passive listening. Save that for baroque. Tüür demands and deserves attention for his efforts as they are finely shaped by the composers "vectoral" approach. This is sound on the cutting edge.

Track Listing: Symphony No. 6 (Strata); Noesis (Concerto for clarinet, violin and orchestra).

Personnel: Jorg Widman: clarinet; Carolin Widman: violin; Nordic Symphony Orchestra, Anu Tali.

Record Label: ECM Records


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