What’s the poooints?

Untitled design (1).png

Founded 26 years ago by Tönu Kaljuste, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra has long been associated with Estonia’s most celebrated export: Arvo Pärt. Through extensive workshopping, recording and performance of Pärt’s music, both the TCO and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (also founded by Kaljuste) have found international recognition – helping to consolidate Estonia’s reputation as one of the foremost exponents for contemporary classical music. Those hoping, then, to catch a spot of tintinnabuli at the TCO’s “Point Points Pooointss...” – part of this year’s World Music Days festival in Tallin – were in for quite the shock. There was no sign of the old master, nor indeed his signature musical style in a concert which, for all but the hardiest of chin-strokers, was challenging.

Conductor Risto Joost enthusiastically guided his cohort of string players through a programme made up almost exclusively of atonal works – each painstakingly scored by a roster of new-music bigwigs, most of whom were present in the audience. The theme for this year’s festival was “Through the Forest of Songs” – and full marks to each composer in this regard, for at times one certainly felt immersed in dense, intellectual thicket. Those looking to the programme notes in the hope of illumination were likely to be disappointed. In the foreword to Adam Porębski’s Semi-Overture, for example, all the Polish composer could offer were six baffling questions, beginning with: “What is a “Semi-overture”?”. I don’t know Adam, you tell us.

This is ironic, because out of the five atonal pieces featured, Porębski’s displayed the greatest sense of continuity. Fragments of melody, cleverly shared between each section of the orchestra, formed recognisable cells that were developed with each repetition, building towards a powerful and musically effective conclusion. Conversely, Slovakian composer Adrian Demoč states quite candidly in his programme note that Strings: Walls, Clusters, Dreams is to speak for itself. And in that sense it did: walls of sound? Oh yes. Dense clusters? Most definitely. Dreams? Let’s put it this way – Demoč is eating too much cheese before bedtime.

Read the full review on Bachtrack