WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Symphony and Transformation); Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Rolf Hind (piano); Danish National RSO/Michael Schønwandt, Markus Stenz
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224125
Poul Ruders’ First Symphony made quite an impression at the BBC Proms some years ago, and its successor is an even finer work: more intense and single-minded, it’s in one movement, and hardly lets up for a moment, either in volume, or in seething activity. There is a sense of organic development right from the start, when single lines in the strings proliferate all over the upper reaches of the orchestra, and Ruders holds the same harmonic ground for over three minutes. Brass and bass instruments come in and establish a regular pulse for the first time, and tuned percussion scintillate. The development and intensification of these three elements project the work forwards through a series of ever more powerful climaxes, to an uneasy, quiet coda, and a final uncertainty. It’s the sort of work which creates its own parameters for existence, and triumphantly vindicates them, gripping the listener in a powerful web of concentration.
By contrast, the Piano Concerto is a more conventional, less unrelenting work with greater rhythmic stability. Even tonality of a sort irrupts into the second movement, and the finale is playfully sinister. Rolf Hind is a compelling soloist, and the orchestral playing, apart from a few roughnesses in the stratospheric string writing in the symphony, is all that one could want. Martin Cotton