Táár: Oxymoron; Salve Regina; Ardor; Dedication

COMPOSERS: Táár
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Táár
WORKS: Oxymoron; Salve Regina; Ardor; Dedication
PERFORMER: Pedro Carneiro (marimba), Leho Karin (cello), Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann (piano); Vox Clamantis; Estonian National SO, NYYD Ensemble/Olari Elts
CATALOGUE NO: 476 5778

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This enjoyable programme of works by Erkki-Sven Tüür follows last month’s ‘Orchestral Choice’ – Virgin Classics’ fine disc of another four works including his Fourth Symphony Magma – and helps to confirm this young(ish) Estonian composer as an important contemporary voice. The principal work here is ArdorMagma, a percussion concerto, but this time for solo marimba and orchestra. The way that Tüür gets round the instrument’s principal shortcoming (its rapid rate of decay) is fascinating, and results in a substantial, bravura showpiece with a broodingly atmospheric and explicitly ‘Nordic’ central slow movement. The early, plangent cello elegy Dedication (1990) is contrasted with Tüür’s recent setting of the Salve Regina for male voices and ensemble, another example of his religious music that contrives to be both contemporary in appeal and to harbour resonances of dignified archaism. The title work, Oxymoron (2003), is a fizzily inventive concerto for large ensemble that, like Salve Regina, shows Tüür in the process of coming to terms with a wider, more tonally flexible, harmonic palette. The performances all seem to be of the highest quality, and two artists deserve special mention: Pedro Carneiro for his almost unbelievable feats of prestidigitation as marimba soloist in Ardor, and Leho Karin for the sustained intensity she brings to the volatile and highly contrasted expressive range of Dedication. Fans of Tüür (a growing band, I fancy) need not hesitate.

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Calum MacDonald