Poul Ruders: Koncerter
17 August 2009
The Philadelphia Inquirer
David Patrick Stearns
Danish composer Ruders is long-established for any number of challenging works, such as his operatic adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But would you ever guess that some of his music plays like stand-up comedy? That’s certainly the case with the 1995 “Concerto in Pieces,” which challenges Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra” by exploiting some of the more extreme possibilities of the symphony orchestra. As with the Britten, a Henry Purcell theme is the piece’s basis, though Ruders disassembles it into discrete layers that are juxtaposed at different speeds. The 1981 “Violin Concerto No. 1” is full of all sorts of witty Vivaldi references with his distinctive sense of time manipulation.
But what makes this an almost ideal encapsulation of Ruders’ art is the disc’s concluding piece - the serious 1988 “Monodrama,” which has been described as “New Rage as opposed to New Age.” Percussion virtuoso Matthias Reumert acts as a frame for a troubled landscape of aggressive, atonal adventures in all sections of the orchestra with an apocalyptic climax. Performances of these often crowded musical collages will never be easy, but there’s no hint of struggle and many flashes of comprehension on this disc.