WORKS: Paganini Variations; The City in the Sea; Anima
PERFORMER: David Starobin (guitar), Mette Ejsing (contralto), Michaela FukacŠová (cello); Odense SO/Jan Wagner
CATALOGUE NO: 9122
Yes, it is that Paganini theme that you’re expecting, and there must be something about it that somehow compels composers to write good pieces. Ruders’s variations (22 of them) are mostly as short and vivacious as the theme itself, apart from a couple of more extended lyrical passages, and you never feel that you are out of touch with the contours or structure of the original. It’s also a real showcase for the soloist, written with Starobin in mind, and he combines virtuosity and wit in his performance.
The City in the Sea is much darker, a setting of Edgar Allan Poe concerned with the submarine realm of death. Slow-moving orchestral masses support a lyrical but angular vocal line, plangently sung by Mette Ejsing, a genuine contralto of power, range and sensitivity, though her words get lost from time to time. The longest work here is Anima, a 23-minute proliferation of melody, flowing from the cellist’s opening theme, which is taken up by other instruments in the orchestra and gradually changes and develops through the interplay between them. Fukažová’s playing is eloquent and centred, and the orchestra is characterful and committed, as it is throughout the CD. Martin Cotton