Poul Ruders: Koncerter
14 September 2009
The New York Times
THE Danish composer Poul Ruders wrote his vivacious, expertly wrought “Concerto in Pieces” (1995) as a sequel to Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” Commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, he followed Britten’s example and composed variations on a theme by Purcell: in this case the Witches’ ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ chorus from Act II of “Dido and Aeneas.”
Thomas Sondergard conducts the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra in a high-energy performance of the engaging score, in which Mr Ruders spotlights different instruments with witty juxtapositions and quirky timbral effects. The theme is tossed among different groups of instruments in the third variation, then woven through a bluesy prism. The saxophone plays a languidly beautiful, rhapsodic solo, which is then taken up by the tuba in the fifth variation, and the sixth features explosive percussion. An eerie trumpet solo in the eighth variation and a frenzy of string pizzicatos in the ninth lead to the re-emergence of the theme in the triumphant, throbbing Finale fugato.
The disc also includes Mr Ruders’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (1981), a homage to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” that reveals Mr Ruders’s Minimalist affinities. The soloist’s frenetic line in the first movement, which Erik Heide plays with flair, unfolds over repetitive figurations and rhythms and the moody harmonies from the first movement of Vivaldi’s “Winter” concerto. After the elegiac second movement, which Mr Heide performs sensitively, comes the finale, “Winter Chaconne,” which veers between exuberance and introspection.
Mathias Reumert is the able soloist in the brooding “Monodrama” (1988), a percussion concerto that Mr Ruders describes as “pretty grim.” Apocalyptic might be a better description of the manner in which the percussionist, accompanied by dark orchestral rumblings, pounds his way through to a stark conclusion.