WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Prophecy
PERFORMER: Nguyên Lê (electric guitar), Mika Väyrynen (accordion); Umo Jazz Orchestra; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Olari Elts
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1234-2
Big band, electric guitar and symphony orchestra. It’s remarkable how successfully they’re integrated by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, the jazz band in the opening movement initially reacting in befuddlement to the foreign textures around it, then gradually becoming more riffy and self-assertive. The guitar’s first entry is actually a cadenza, and improvised. It fits musically, though the balance is a touch attention-seeking.
There’s a segue to the glacial string polyphony of the slow movement; the third brings big band improvisation, the finale another fuzz-soaked outing for the guitarist. It sounds as if it should be a shapeless hodge-podge, but remarkably it isn’t, though there are plenty of wild, neo-Ivesian sonorities to be going on with. The performance is admirably tight and well-coordinated – you can tell Olari Elts had conducted the work eight times before making the recording.
Prophecy is an accordion concerto in four interlocking movements. Again Tüür’s skilful integration of an unusual solo instrument is very striking, and there’s interesting timbral interaction with the orchestral woodwind and percussion. There’s less variety overall than in the symphony, but both works belie the potentially gimmicky expectations created by their titles.