This program makes the perfect introduction to Poul Ruders' music, containing as it does orchestral and chamber music of wide-ranging character. First, the chamber pieces: Cembal d'Amore, for piano and harpsichord, is a Baroque dance suite that brilliantly intermingles the two instruments' disparate sonorities. Air with Changes is a set of variations for solo harp based on the Danish folksong Harpen's Kraft ("The Power of the Harp"). Anyone familiar with Ruders' Paganini Variations or his Concerto in Pieces knows that he is a master variation-writer, and this brief but brilliant piece is no exception.
On the orchestral front, the title "Light Overture" has a dual meaning: the music is indeed far cheerierRead more than the Ruders norm, but the work also was commissioned by the Alabama Symphony for the Alabama Power Company's 100-year anniversary concert, so the name is apt. Ruders' scoring, even here, tends to be dense and, well, hallucinatory, but the music is brilliant and even catchy. Credo, a short piece for two solo violins, solo clarinet, and strings strikes a more serious and lyrical note. The Second Nightshade is horror-movie music, plain and simple, and vintage Ruders--darkly gripping and impressively sustained throughout its quarter-hour length.
The performances are all terrific, and very well recorded given the different forces and venues involved. Stephen Gosling and Steven Beck attack their various keyboards with gusto, and they are very naturally balanced; June Han delivers a vibrant account of the harp variations, and the two orchestras respond with gusto and sensitivity, where appropriate. Without question Ruders is a major voice in contemporary music, and Bridge deserves enthusiastic praise for its ongoing and dedicated promotion of his work.
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