There must be something in the water in Estonia that such a tiny country (with a population of a little more than a million) should produce so many intriguing and significant composers in the 20th and 21st centuries, with a list that includes Eduard Tubin, Veljo Tormis, Arvo Pärt, Lepo Sumera, Erkki-Sven Tüür, and Helena Tulve. Tüür is an outstanding example of a contemporary composer who has developed a sophisticated but immediately communicative style that steers clear of the orthodoxy of the many -isms that have dominated 20th century composition. His scores are notable for the brilliance of their orchestration and sure grasp of large-scale musical architecture. The two works recorded here, Symphony No. 6, ("Strata"), and Noësis, a concerto for clarinet and violin, last 32 and 20 minutes, respectively, and are each in a single movement, but their clear structure and compelling sense of drama keep listeners attentive throughout. The sections of the symphony (which broadly follows the contours of sonata form) are punctuated with a memorable, delicately glistening gesture using harp, celesta, and the upper register of the piano to create an otherworldly atmosphere. In Noësis, which also relies on distinctive timbral combinations, the soloists are very much integrated into the colorful orchestral textures. The performances by the Nordic Symphony Orchestra, led by Anu Tali, capture the vivid colors and evocative timbres of the scores. Clarinetist Jörg Widmann and violinist Carolin Widmann negotiate Tüür's demanding solo lines with assurance. ECM's sound is clean and natural sounding. This is an album that should be of interest to fans of contemporary orchestral music.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins