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An Estonian composer, born 1959, whose work combines influences as diverse as Gregorian chant and King Crimson in a shifting, sculptural pattern of energy, with tension between tonal and atonal. He was also a performer of such music in the "chamber rock" group In Spe, which was one of the most popular in Estonia.

Erkki-Sven Tüür was born at Kärdla on the Baltic island of Hiuumaa on 16 October 1959. He studied flute and percussion at the Tallinn School of Music between 1976 and 1980, and composition at the Tallinn Academy of Music until 1984. He was a pupil of Jaan Rääts and Lepo Sumera. (Worried note by noder: should I have heard of either of these people?)

From the age of three he had enjoyed the music of Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn on the radio, and later he was very impressed by the works of King Crimson, Yes, Frank Zappa, Mike Oldfield, and Genesis. He was stunned when he first heard "In the Court of the Crimson King". He also increasingly took in both Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony on the one hand and comparable modern music like that of Arvo Pärt, György Ligeti, and the American minimalists. All these influences came together in his group In Spe, founded in 1976, for which he was composer, flautist, keyboard, and vocals.

Tüür's first success abroad was the performance of his Insula deserta in Finland in 1989, and since then he was been widely successful. He has had works commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the Frankfurt and Helsinki orchestras, among others. His Requiem received a UNESCO prize. His violin concerto of 1998 was written with Gidon Kremer in mind, though it in fact premièred with the soloist Isabelle van Keulen in 1999.

Thee critic Wolfgang Sandner said of his music:

Erkki-Sven Tüür's music sounds as if it had strolled through the history of music assimilating theoretical inspiration and practical experience along the way. Then it seems to have wrapped itself up in a cocoon immune to the outside world, there to develop its own contours.
And Erkki-Sven Tüür himself has this to say about it:
My work as a composer is entirely concerned with the relation between emotional and intellectual energy and the ways in which they can be channelled, accumulated, liquidated, and re-accumulated. My pieces are abstract dramas in sound, with characters and an extremely dynamic chain of events; they unfold in a space that is constantly shifting, expanding, and contracting, not so much like a mosaic, but rather in the manner of a block of sculpture. I am very interested in the combination of opposites -- tonality vs atonality, regular repetitive rhythms vs irregular complex rhythms, tranquil meditativeness vs explosive theatricality -- and especially in the way these gradually change from one to the other.
Two good web sites on his work, apart from the choice of colours in the first, are:
http://www3.sympatico.ca/alan.teder/
http://www.wguc.org/exclusives/cso/cso_display.asp?id=22

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