Ruders: Violin Concerto No. 2; Dramaphonia, for Piano and Chamber Ensemble

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COMPOSERS: Ruders
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 2; Dramaphonia, for Piano and Chamber Ensemble
PERFORMER: Rebecca Hirsch (violin), Poul Rosenbaum (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DCCD 9308 DDD
With his Symphony, written for the BBC Proms and first performed there in 1989, the Danish-born, British-based composer Poul Ruders (born in 1949) achieved a compositional breakthrough – a work on a large scale, with appropriately large gestures made in a dramatically strong yet simple way. Neither of the offerings on this disc (on the dacapo label) seems quite so rounded an achievement; nevertheless, each explains and indeed justifies the international interest Ruders has aroused.

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The earlier Dramaphonia (1987), for piano and ensemble, is the first of a Ruders triptych of theatre-inspired instrumental pieces. A steadily unfolding progression from slow to fast, low to high, frozen emotions to jagged ones, it establishes a relationship between quietly turbulent solo instrument and sostenuto accompaniment later frenziedly rescripted.

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The concept is, again, boldly simple, though the louring, scratchy colour palette takes some getting used to; its eventual pay-off is excitingly brought off. By contrast, the second of Ruders’s two violin concertos – a nature evocation in a bleak yet sometimes lyrically wide-spanning neo-Romantic idiom – seems at once more listener-friendly and more loose-limbed. In both cases, since the performances are expert and the musical sound worlds wholly individual, the experience ‘adds up’. Max Loppert