Ruders: Star-Prelude and Love Fugue; Piano Sonatas Nos 1 (Dante Sonata) & 2; Three Letters from the Unknown Soldier

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COMPOSERS: Ruders
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Star-Prelude and Love Fugue; Piano Sonatas Nos 1 (Dante Sonata) & 2; Three Letters from the Unknown Soldier
PERFORMER: Rolf Hind (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224148
Rolf Hind is a long-standing champion of Poul Ruders’s piano music – one of the composer’s two piano concertos is dedicated to him – and this collection of four of the solo works is as meticulously prepared and presented as one would expect. If the Three Letters from the Unknown Soldier, composed when Ruders was just 18, show how the fledgling composer was indebted to Penderecki at that stage in his development, the set of miniatures nevertheless establishes traits that have remained part of his musical personality ever since, especially the need to push expressiveness to the limit, to extract the maximum intensity from whatever he is writing.

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The Star-Prelude and Love Fugue pairs a brief essay in minimalist techniques with a cheeky subversion of fugal propriety, but the two sonatas are much more serious and ambitious affairs. The First, composed just three years after the Three Letters, shows how quickly Ruders found his voice – the programme comes from Dante’s Inferno, and aspects of the piano-writing from Liszt. The imposing and powerful Second seems to have been conceived as a kind of paraphrase of its predecessor, and the music mostly operates within the same stylistic territory, even though the compositional techniques used to generate it are often very different. Andrew Clements