Tuesday 11 February 2014

Helena Tulve - Arboles lloran por lluvia

Helene Tulva Arboles lloran por lluvia: ECM new series
Helene Tulva Arboles lloran por lluvia: ECM new series
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb7 2014
Star rating: 3.0

Fascinating timbres and fluid writing in this showcase of works by contemporary Estonian composer Helena Tulva

This disc showcases the music of the Estonian composer Helena Tulve. In a diverse group of five works, her fondness for exotic Eastern texts along with an fine ear for unusual instruments are showcased in performances of Reyah hadas 'ala, silences/larmes, L'Equinoxe de l'ame, Arboles lloran por lluvia and Extinction des choses with performers including soprano Arianna Savall, counter-tenors Charles Barbier and Taniel Krirkal, with Ensemble Vox Clamantis, Ensemble Hortus Musicus and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jaan-Eik Tulve and Olari Elts.

I have to admit that the name Helena Tulve was new to me. Tulve is an Estonia composer, she studied in at the Estonian Academy of Music with Erkki-Sven Tüür, being the latter’s sole student of composition thus far.

Reya hadas 'ala (The perfume of the myrtle rises) is a setting of a poem by Shalom Shabazi for voices and early music consort, performed by counter-tenors Charles Barbier and Taniel Kirika, the six-person vocal ensemble Vox Clamantis and Ensemble Hortus Musicus conducted by Jaan-Eik Tulve (who also happens to be Helena Tulve's husband). Tulve's instrumental writing here is full of slides and atmospherics, she is influenced by the French school of spectral music. Embedded in this is the vocal ensemble's singing of a chant-like melody, thus embodying another of Tulve's interests that of Gregorian chant. The text is by a 17th century Yemenite poet, rabbi and mystic.  The programme note in the CD booklet describes how the voices float like 'the aroma of the myrtle' in the 'foliage' of the instruments. The two counter-tenors sing a wonderfully melismatic and hypnotic melody, full of rather Eastern inflections. There are some wonderfully atmospheric instrumental moments, and Tulve uses the early instruments of the ensemble (violin, viola da gamba, violone, recorders, dulcian, bombard, trombone and organ) with skill.

silences/larmes (silences / tears) sets poems by Mother Immaculata Astra for soprano, oboe and percussions, here performed by soprano Arianna Savall, oboist Riivo Kallasmaa and Tulve herself on glasses and wind chimes. The text is a series of haiku written by the current Abbess of Le Pesquie (an abbey in Southern France near Foix). As can be imagined from the orchestration, the work starts from the eerie atmospherics of the glasses. Over the top we have the soprano and the oboe interacting with lyrical intensity. Tulve's melodic writing is fascinating rather than memorable, and she uses whisperings from both singer and oboist. The piece has a certain hypnotic intensity but I have to confess that I found it less easily accessible than the first number on the disc. The performances from all three performers are admirable.

L'equinoxe de l'ame (The Equinox of the Sul) is a setting of a text by Shahab al-Din Suhrawardifor soprano, triple hard and string quartet. Here it is performed by Arianna Savall (soprano AND triple harp), and the NYYD Quartet (Harry Traksmann, Olga Voronova, Torsten Tiebout, Leho Karin). The triple harp (also known as the Welsh triple harp, telyn deires) has three rows of strings rather than the usual one. The text is by a Sufi mystic from the 12th century, here in the French translation by Henry Corbin. Again the music is nebulous and atmospheric, with fluidity of sound clearly an importance, with the strings and harp creating webs of sound round the soprano's Eastern influence vocal line. Savall in particular gives a superb account of the high lying vocal line.

Arboles lloran pro lluvia sets a traditional Ladino poem for voices and nyckelharpa, her performed by Savall, Kirikal and Vox Clamantis with Marco Ambrosini on nyckelharpa, conducted by Jaan-Eik Tulve. The nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish keyed stringed instrument played with a bow. The work starts full of quiet murmurings from the singers with odd plucked notes from the instrument, the result gradually coalesces with a rather chant-like melody taken up hypnotically by both soloists. The piece has a certain austere sensuality and a lovely fine transparency in the writing.

Extinction des choses vues (Extinction of things seen)  brings a change of size, as it is written for orchestra. Here played by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Olari Elts.  The musical ideas are derived from the text by the Jesuit thinker Michel de Certau, Extase blanche (White Ecstasy), with the work's title referring to the extinction of the present to achieve the world beyond. But though Tulve is using a full orchestra, she does so with the same transparency, fluidity and finesse so that in fact the transition from the more chamber pieces to this one is less immediately apparent. The orchestra render Tulve's sound world, with its whisperings, glissandi and murmurings, with great beauty.

The piece on this disc requires a little work from the listener, as we need to dig below the surface beauty and fascinating timbres of this finely crafted music. But I have to confess that, with some of the pieces on the disc I was uncertain as to whether the string of lovely moments and fascinating aural textures added up to something more substantial or not. But this is a disc certainly worth exploring, and Tulve has a very distinctive musical voice.

Helen Tulve (born 1972) - Reyah hadas 'ala [14.10]
Helen Tulve (born 1972) - silence/larmes [11.06]
Helen Tulve (born 1972) - L'Equinoxe de l'ame [11.19]
Helen Tulve (born 1972) - Arboles lloran por lluvia [12.22]
Helen Tulve (born 1972) - Extinction des choses vues [11.01]
Arianna Savall (soprano, triple harp)
Charles Barbier (counter tenor)
Taniel Kirikal (counter tenor)
Riivo Kallasmaa (oboe)
Marco Ambrosini (nyckleharpa)

Vox Clamantis (Mikk Uleoja, Mikk Dede, Sakarias Leppik, Anto Onnis, Riivo Kallasmaa, Tonis Kaumann)
Ensemble Hortus Musicus (Harry Traskmann, Peeter Klaas, Imre Eenmaa, Tonis Kuurne, Olev Ainomae, Valter Jurgenson, Ivo Sillamaa)
NYYD Quartet (Harry Traksman, Olga Voronova, Torsten Tiebout, Leho Karin)
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Jaan-Eik Tulve (conductor)
Olari Elts (conductor)
Recorded Tallinn, October 2009 and September 2010
ECM new series 2243 476 4500 1 CD

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