- À travers, for ensemble
- Lijnen, for voice & ensemble
- Öö, for saxophone quartet
- Abysses, for flutes & ensemble
- Cendres, for ensemble
- Nec ros, nec pluvia..., for string quartet
Estonian composer Helena Tulve (born 1972) is one of the brightest musical lights to emerge around the turn of the millennium. The first collection of her work was a remarkable debut, and its centerpiece, the massive "Sula," deserves to be counted among the most monumental and original orchestral works of the first decade of the 21st century. While none of the pieces on this album quite match the impact of that piece, they each reveal a very fine musical intelligence and imagination and an ability to evoke a sense of the unpredictable, primordial processes of nature, particularly in frozen and desolate landscapes. Her works unfold with an organic logic that defies easy analysis but that feels inexorable and true. Each of these pieces lasts about 10 minutes. "À travers," for chamber ensemble, and abysses, for flutes and chamber ensemble, do not use large forces, but both conjure up a sense of immense space, and like "Sula," sound very, very cold. Much the same is true of "Lijnen," which adds voice to the ensemble with aphoristic texts by Belgian poet Roland Jooris that confirm the tone of nature's icy and impersonal power that is evident in the music. "Öö" (Night) is scored for saxophone quartet and while timbral diversity is one of the strongest and most prominent aspects of Tulve's music, she demonstrates that even within this circumscribed palette she can create soundscapes that throb with visceral intensity. The title of "Nec ros, nec pluvia" (nor dew, nor rain …) comes from David's lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan in Second Samuel, in the Vulgate version. This is about as programmatic as a Tulve title is likely to get. For string quartet, the piece has an emptiness that conveys a very contemporary sense of grief and isolation. It lies almost entirely in or above the treble staff and consists mostly of collisions of stray sounds, tiny and stratospherically high, that result in passing dissonances. The performances, by the NYYD Ensemble led by Olari Elts, the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, the Silesian String Quartet, and singer Arianna Savall, are impeccably precise and intensely evocative. ECM's sound, as is typical of albums produced by Manfred Eicher, absolutely clean, balanced, and appropriately atmospheric.