No contemporary composer has displayed a more idiosyncratic mastery of the modern symphony orchestra than Poul Ruders. The huge colour-enhanced canvasses of the First Symphony (1989), Solar Trilogy (1992-95) and the two operas The Handmaid’s Tale (1996-98) and Kafka’s Trial (2001-3) show a Straussian panache in the creation of arresting new timbres and textures. But in each case it is the emotion conveyed, the atmosphere generated by these means that leaves the strongest impression.
One might expect such a composer to be less at home writing for chamber ensembles. But there is another side to Ruders’s musical character - one that has more in common with the Nordic giant Sibelius than with Strauss. Ruders too thrives on the challenge of creating big effects with limited forces. Before writing his Viola Concerto (1993-4), Ruders told this writer how he was looking forward to composing a score with no percussion, no samplers or digital keyboards, and with only the familiar instruments of the classical orchestra - or as he put it succinctly, ‘I’m going to have to do it all with notes.’ Ruders does allow himself a slightly more variegated instrumental palette in the three works recorded here, but with only solo instruments at his disposal the sonorous impact of a full orchestral brass or string section is ruled out. Intensity has to be conveyed by concentration.
Interpretation **** Sound Quality **** Repertoire **** Booklet ***
Tobias Pfleger - Klassik.com - 25 February 2010
Steen Chr. Steensen - Magasinet Klassisk - 1 February 2010
"It’s splendidly played and recorded ... a substantial addition to Ruders’ discography."
"Knussen and his Birmingham forces give their all throughout."
Ballet Review - 01 April 2010
"This is a bracing, sensuous ear-opener."
Fiona Maddocks - The Guardian - 9 March 2010
“Performances are as accurate and committed as you would expect from the BCMG and Knussen, with recorded sound that gives the textures clarity and depth” *****
Martin Cotton - BBC Music Magazine - 1 April 2010
"I have been listening to this constantly for over a month...The playing is spectacular"
Christopher L Chaffee - American Record Guide - 17 June 2010