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About this Piece

Completed in 1994, Conversio arrived shortly after a major turning point in Estonian musician Tüür’s lengthy career, which saw his rise from founder of the progressive rock band In Spe to a highly regarded, mostly self-taught, classical composer. Known for his use of repetition and his love of metaphysical inquiry, reminiscent of fellow Estonian Arvo Pärt, Tüür brings his spirit and wit to Conversio—a surprising and swirling duet for violin and piano.

Built upon sparse, revolving melodies, Conversio relays Tüür’s enchantment with mathematical iterations and mutations. The violin evokes the jauntiness of an Irish fiddle—it’s telling some convoluted, humorous tale—while the piano’s sporadic interruptions repeatedly try to steal the punchline away. Though initially playful, Conversio spins madly into chaos; the divergent threads start to tangle and the once boisterous accents of the swelling piano turn menacing. Beginning in a murmur and arriving in a howl while never showing signs of obvious transition, Conversio is a bit of a magic act. Without assurance or guidance, the piece leaves the listener in murky waters—what initially seems repetitive turns into something transformative. Arriving near the end of the 20th century, Conversio brings derived Expressionism into the next century, resulting in a minimalist fugue fit for an apprehensive era. —Tess Carges