POUL RUDERS: ‘Music of Poul Ruders, Vol. 9‘ = David Starobin, guitar & others – Bridge

POUL RUDERS: ‘Music of Poul Ruders, Vol. 9‘ =  New Rochelle Suite, Twinkle Bells, Schrödinger’s Cat, Romances, Thirteen Postludes – David Starobin, guitar/Daniel Druckman, percussion/David Holtzman, p./Amalia Hall, v./Hsin-Yun Huang, viola/Sarah Rothberg, p. – Bridge 9427, 56:34 [Distr. by Albany] ***:

I have had the good fortune to hear and review several of Bridge’s series of the music of Danish composer Poul Ruders, including the most recent one, ‘Music ofPoul Ruders, Vol. 8‘.  I think, and clearly David Starobin and the folks at Bridge agree, that Ruders is an important, if slightly obscure to Americans, composer whose music deserves to be heard.

Ruders’ music is always interesting, always just a little eccentric and defies categorization. In all honesty, I do not get totally involved in all of it and I do prefer his larger orchestral works. However, this collection is a nice sampling of his chamber music output and illustrates the variety and the unusual nature of Ruders’ music.

Certainly, the little five-movement New Rochelle Suite for guitar and percussion is an attention-getting way to start the album. Written for the excellent guitarist and Bridge exec David Starobin, and his daughter, percussionist Allegra, this is a showy, quirky and theatrical work that covers a lot of stylistic ground. There are references to Ruders’ opera Kafka’s Trial as well as some tango and I enjoyed this unusual work.

The very short piano etude, Twinkle Bells, at under two minutes seems aptly titled with its tinkling and upper end noodling. It ends oddly and abruptly and is a head tilter that I found mostly a curiosity.

The fairly substantial twelve canons for violin and guitar called Schrödinger’s Cat was the most interesting work in this collection for me. The intriguing title refers to the theories and thoughts of German physicist Erwin Schrödinger and, specifically, a thought puzzle called an “entanglement” used to explain quantum states (which I will make no attempt to do) in which a hypothetical cat in a box may be dead or alive dependent on which of two versions of sub-atomic particles interact with the cat (and that is all you’re going to get, readers.) Just as a set of twelve miniatures, written as canons, this is a most engaging piece and the strange combination of violin and guitar works very well in Ruders’ hands.

I had a similar experience listening to the Romances for viola and piano. Certainly this pairing is the most “conventional” in this collection and this six movement work contains some lovely moments; each of which is a form of the typical “romance.”  I was especially taken with the second, Even Song and fifth, Dirge.

This collection concludes with the longest work herein, the Thirteen Postludes for solo piano. Ruders thinks of this set as “epilogues in the truest meaning of the word”; in particular ‘epilogues’ to three larger works that he considers a “Drama Trilogy” in his output (Dramaphonia for piano and orchestra, Monodrama for percussion and orchestra and his cello concerto, Polydrama.) This is an interesting set with slightly mixed results – in terms of interest – from movement to movement.

All performances in this collection are of highest quality and I do think that anyone would find these pieces to be intriguing and may make you want to explore more music from this fascinating composer.  I have often thought Poul Ruders would be a fascinating man to talk to as well due to his apparent breadth of knowledge and interests in literature, science and the like.

—Daniel Coombs

 

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