Thursday, November 15, 2001

Estonian composer has eclectic influences

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To understand the music of Erkki-Sven Tuur, born on a remote island in the Baltic Sea, you have to go back to '70s rock music.

        The avant-garde composer is one of several Estonians whose work has become better known since the tiny country became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.

    What: The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Jarvi, conductor; Isabelle van Keulen, violinist.
    When: 7:30 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
    Where: Music Hall.
    Tickets: $12-$51; $10 students. (Tonight is UC Night: $10 includes a post-concert party.) Preconcert buffet 6:15 today. 381-3300;
    Read the review: Friday at Cincinnati.Com, keyword: symphony, and Saturday in Tempo.
        His music is championed by the Jarvi dynasty of maestros: Neeme, Kristjan and Paavo Jarvi. Paavo Jarvi will conduct the U.S. premiere of Mr. Tuur's Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra today through Saturday.

        Mr. Tuur, 42, spoke to the Enquirer by phone from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he lives.

        Question: What are some of your musical influences?

        Answer: I have to travel back to the mid-70s, when I started my musical activity as a rock band leader in Estonia. I was impressed by the music of King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Yes and Genesis.

        At the same time, I was very much interested in Gregorian Chant. ... I was absolutely hooked on Arvo Part's Tabula Rasa. I was also influenced by the music of (Gyorgy) Ligeti and also by American minimalists.

        Q: Tell us about your Violin Concerto.

        A: The relationship between violin and orchestra is interactive. There is an idea from the soloist, then the orchestra picks it up and starts to develop it in its own way. ... It's continuous echoing and answering. Q: How did it come about?

        A: I was asked by (violinist) Gidon Kremer to write a violin concerto for him. But it happened that he had no time to practice. ... Isabelle van Keulen played one of my pieces, and I really liked how she played it. We were looking for a soloist to play (the concerto) in Frankfurt in 1999, and I suggested her. It was a big success. The Cincinnati performance is the ninth for her.

        Q: Was it difficult to study music, growing up in Estonia during the Soviet regime?

A: Yes, because it was a very closed society. But we were better informed about what was going on in the West than the rest of the Soviet Union. Even though material was not available in music stores, we still managed to get the music. (My friends and I) shared it with each other.


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