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Erkki-Sven Tüür

The Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür (born 1959) studied flute and percussion at the Tallinn Conservatory between 1976 and 1980. He followed that by undertaking studies in composition both at the Tallinn Academy of music, from 1980 to 1984, and privately. He also studied electronic music in Karlsruhe. In 1979, he founded the progressive rock band ‘In Spe’, which quickly became the most popular band in Estonia. Its music betrays the influence of King Crimson; Yes; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Genesis; Mike Oldfield and Frank Zappa. Tüür wrote the songs for the band, and played the flute, keyboard and percussion. He gave up rock music in the second half of the 1980s to focus entirely on composition. Perestroika had a great impact on his life as, thanks to it, the music he wrote from inside the Soviet Union was able to reach Western audiences. As part of the cultural opening, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra were among the first to commission compositions from him. Today, besides Arvo Pärt, he is the best-known representative of contemporary Estonian music on the international stage. He employs a wide range of compositional techniques and draws upon many styles, from Gregorian to minimalism, polyphony to twelve-tone technique. He describes this combination as ‘metalanguage’. “My work as a composer is entirely concerned with the relationship between emotional and intellectual energy and the ways in which they can be channelled, accumulated, dissipated and re-accumulated. My pieces are abstract dramas in sound, with characters and an extremely dynamic chain of events.”
The main characteristic feature of Tüür’s music is an intense energetic transformative dimension. The intuitive and rational approach is synthesized into a complete organic system. Instrumental music makes up the main body of Tüür’s work. He is the author of eight symphonies, a number of works for symphony and string orchestra, nine instrumental concertos, a wide variety of chamber music and an opera.
As a composer, Tüür wishes for his music to raise existential questions. “What is our mission? It is the main question asked by thinkers and philosophers from different cultures. One of my goals is to reach the creative energy of the listener. Music as an abstract form of art is able to create different visions for each of us, for each and every individual being, as we are all unique.”