Poul RUDERS (b.1949)
Four Dances in one Movement (1983) [19:22]
Nightshade (1987) [8:46]
Abysm (2000) [22:39]
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Oliver Knussen
rec. 11-12 October 2008 and 14 March 2009, CBSO Centre, Birmingham DDD
DA CAPO 8.226028 [50:47]
Four Dances in One Movement has a distinctive chamber music feel, with spacious scoring and well considered use of instrumental colours. The quiet opening features a duo between the soft-toned clarinet and ethereal violin, creating a wonderfully captivating and gentle mood. This gives way to a mournful section, which is entitled ‘Rocking’ and has a mournful feel. The music then breaks into the bright ‘Ecstatic’ dance, with sparkling high-pitched sounds and some well chosen percussion, before the final, and longest, dance. ‘Extravagant’ once again changes the mood for the finale. The ending is particularly appealing, and surprisingly subdued. As the title suggests, these dances have rhythm at their centre, and even the quieter sections radiate a sense of rhythmic energy which underpins the whole work. There are some beautiful moments in this piece, and the climactic points have a great sense of excitement about them. Extremely enjoyable, and it seemed much shorter than its 19 and a half minute duration. 

has a wonderfully dark opening which immediately gives a sense of ominous power. The title refers to the plant, Deadly Nightshade. This piece has a sense of concentration about it, with much intensity throughout. The ten instruments provide a much fuller orchestral sound than one would ordinarily expect. 

is a three movement large ensemble work whose opening shares the dark tone of the previous work. Resonant, low piano notes set a sombre mood. The title is derived from a Shakespearean line which makes reference to divination and the occult. There is a dark, underlying strength that continues throughout the first movement of the work. The second movement is a busy interlude for piano and Japanese woodblocks, which describes birds pecking at a burning road. This is a reference to a novel by Farid ud-Din Attar called The Conference of Birds. The final movement is based on Blake, and has a sense of ‘menaced innocence’ with simple, slow-moving melodic lines over dark harmonies with a textural build-up of unusual sounds, such as microtones, harmonics and multiphonics.
The playing is technically excellent on this disc, and one would expect nothing less from BCMG and Knussen. The moods are well captured and Ruders’ music is captivating throughout.  

Carla Rees

Ruders’ music is captivating throughout.