String Quartet No. 2 ‘Lost Prayers’*; Fata Morgana; Synergie†; Lichttürme
†Florian Donderer, Harry Traksmann (violin), Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann (piano), Leho Karin, †Tanja Tetzlaff (cello); *Signum Quartett
ECM 481 9540 54:40 mins
Erkki-Sven Tüür is best known for his robustly elemental orchestral writing, with nine symphonies and a host of concertos and other large-scale pieces composed to date. Yet, as this album of chamber works attests, he is equally at home with far smaller forces where his trademark dramatic extremes and expansive gestures take on a powerful immediacy close-up.
Named after Tüür’s String Quartet No. 2, Lost Prayers, this album’s collected works are striking for their consistency and coherence over a span of 15 years. Each deploys motivic seeds which, as they grow and mutate, generate organic structures that knit the work together as it were from the inside.
Whether in the quartet (2012), the violin-cello duo Synergie (2010) or piano trios Fata Morgana (2002) and Lichttürme (2017), the resulting idiom is ferociously intense: dissonant with dark, tonal-atonal underpinnings, and replete with pauses and explosions that ricochet outwards in molten trails before re-gathering. All are delivered with exemplary drive and luminosity: the Signum Quartett respond vividly to the changing textures of Tüür’s imagined Lost Prayers, while Florian Donderer (violin) and Tanja Tetzlaff (cello) create pools of colour as they stretch and entwine in the aptly titled Synergie.
But it’s in Fata Morgana and especially Lichttürme (Towers of Light) where the harmonic fields are most resonant, the piano in each case affording a rippling sustain that unites the earthly with the ethereal. Both are beautifully navigated by Harry Traksmann (violin), Leho Karin (cello) and Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann (piano).