Poul Ruders: Kafka's Trial and Four Dances
01 April 2010
The Danish composer Poul Ruders' Four Dances in One Movement explores timbre and mood to dramatic and often foreboding effect without suggesting specific action or emotions, as if waitingfor the right choreographer to come along. The brief Night shade and more elaborate Abysm also show Ruders' inventive orchestration to ominous effect - music for a latter-day Antony Tudor? Knussen and his Birminghamforces give their all throughout.
At sixty, Ruders is best known abroad for his two operas,The Handmaid'sTale and Kafka'sTrial. The latter combines the action of Kafka's novel with its author's epistolary pursuit of a young Berlin woman to whom he became engaged while having an affair with her best friend and the two women's "trial" of him becomes the opera's climax. All the singers take on multiple roles as the action moves between these two levels. It may well be very effective in the theater, but with twenty-six scenes the music ends up supporting the drama rather than shaping it.The excellent cast, caught over several performances at the opening of the new opera house in Copenhagen in 2005, is again totally committed and the fine notes include the full text.