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Poul RUDERS (b. 1949) Occam’s Razor
David Starobin (guitar)
Xiaobo Pu, YunXiang Fan, Hao Yang (guitar)
Movses Pogossian, Amalia Hall (violin), Liang Wang (oboe), Daniel Druckman (percussion)
rec. USA, 2007-18
New Music with Guitar Volume 11 BRIDGE 9500 [52:28]
I admit that I am not a great fan of modern guitar music, I tend to stick to those works composed before the mid twentieth century, with a few exceptions of course such as Steve Reich, I tend to find the more modern music a bit formulaic and more interested in the effects rather than the music. However, I do like the music of Poul Ruders and was therefore prepared to take a chance on this disc, especially as many of the pieces presented here are chamber works, and I was glad I did.
Bridge Records have been championing the music of the Danish composer Poul Ruders for a number of years now and whilst I have only got a couple of their recordings it has certainly become clear that the label has become the starting point for any exploration of the composer’s music. Whilst this present disc is not part of their Ruders edition per say, rather it is the eleventh volume of their series on New Music with Guitar, the integrity and attention to detail remains, making this another valuable addition to their growing catalogue of Ruders music.
Pages is an ongoing collection of short pieces for solo guitar, each of which was written on a single page of score paper, hence the title. Each of the individual pieces, thirteen in total at the moment, is given a descriptive title that suites the music well, although be aware, No, 2, ‘Rocking’ bares no resemblance to a lullaby, more rock ‘n’ roll than rock-a-bye-baby. My personal favorite is no. 8, ‘Nimble’ which has many of the intricacies you associate with the likes of Francisco Tárrega, with all of the six pieces presented here being tuneful and attractive.
The two pieces from Three for Two are both remarkable pieces of quite complex violin writing, especially ‘Cantus Firmus’ No. 3, with a simpler guitar accompaniment, perhaps this is due to the fact that they are musical palindromes. No. 2 has the more generous guitar writing, although the two instruments play at different time signatures, the guitar is three times faster than the violin, which must make this piece difficult to perform as well as Movses Pogossian and David Starobin do here.
The work that gives this disc its title, Occam’s Razor, is for Oboe and guitar, and is a suite of eight short movements. The music shifts in intensity and virtuosity, with sometimes the instruments having solos within the movements, whilst at other times the guitar can sound quite pianistic playing simple notes under the oboe’s line; I particularly liked the fifth movement entitled ‘Lonesome’, which starts with a quite beautiful oboe solo with the guitar not entering until well over half way through.
The Air with Changes on a Danish Folk Song contains the earliest music on this disc, composed in 1993 for solo harp; Ruders arranged the piece for four guitars earlier this year (2018), the result being quite mesmerising and beautiful. The work is a set of twelve variations bookended by the folk tune Harpens Kraft. It was arranged for David Starobin to perform with three truly gifted students from the Curtis Institute who recorded the piece shortly after they gave the premier in April 2018.
Originally composed for Starobin and his daughter to perform, the New Rochelle Suite is for guitar and percussion. It was originally composed in four movements although Ruders added a further movement, ‘Night Tango’, which he positioned fourth in the suite of five movements. It, like all the best suites, presents different and contrasting movements which some of which can seem at odds with their neighbour, but as a whole, the work works very well, with Daniel Druckman, the son of the composer Jacob Druckman, using an array of instruments to produce some remarkable percussive sounds and textures.
The final work on the disc is another for violin and guitar, Schrödinger's Cat, although here David Starobin gets a new violinist partner in Amalia Hall. The work is a collection of 12 Canons and is described in the booklet as “the most intricate piece on this disc, both compositionally and instrumentally”. It certainly sounds and feels more complex and for the most part alternates fast and slow canons, with some of the faster ones sounding a little aggressive at times. They contain some intricate writing for both instruments, as well as differing time signatures even within a single movement; the result is at times both mesmerising and enthralling, making this an exciting work.
Throughout this disc Poul Ruders has paired instruments that you would think would not go together well, but he shows that the unexpected can be quite beautiful. He is helped here by David Starobin, the backbone of this recording, and a roster of highly talented musicians, all of whom perform to the best of their abilities and prove excellent partners to Starobin. These excellent performances are aided by very good recorded sound that sounds quite natural without any of the instruments being overpowered by another. David Starobin has also written the booklet notes, which give a good introduction to each of the pieces. An important addition to the growing catalogue of Poul Ruders music on disc.
Contents Pages (2008) Pages: No. 6, Simple [2:03] Pages: No. 5, Stealthy [0:40] David Starobin (guitar) Three for Two (2016) Three for Two: No. 3, Cantus Firmus III [2:19]
Movses Pogossian (violin), David Starobin (guitar) Occam’s Razor (2013)
No. 1, Fanfarish [1:25]
No. 2, Melancholic [1:55]
No. 3, Bright [1:24]
No. 4, Hesitant [1:34]
No. 5, Lonesome [2:16]
No. 6, Ostinato [1:39]
No. 7, Ragged [2:35]
No. 8, Occam;s Razor [1:04]
Liang Wang (oboe), David Starobin (guitar) Pages: No. 10, Romantic [1:59]
David Starobin (guitar) Three for Two: No. 2, Cantus Firmus II [1:25] Air with Changes on a Danish Folk Song (1993 arr. 2018) [5:22]
Xiaobo Pu (guitar 1), YunXiang Fan (guitar 2), Hao Yang (guitar 3), David Starobin (guitar 4) Pages: No. 2, Rocking [0:41] Pages: No. 3, Gentle [0:42] Pages: No. 8, Nimble [1:04]
David Starobin (guitar) New Rochelle Suite (2003/2006)
I. Grand Opening [1:00]
II. Kafka [1:34]
III. Thanksgiving [1:15]
IV. Night Tango [2:26]
V. Stampede [0:45]
David Starobin (guitar), Daniel Druckman (percussion) Schrödinger’s Cat (2012)
No. 1, Canon I [0:55]
No. 2, Canon II [0:38]
No. 3, Canon III [1:04]
No. 4, Canon IV [1:05]
No. 5, Canon V [0:57]
No. 6, Canon VI [1:11]
No. 7, Canon VII [1:12]
No. 8, Canon VIII [0:31]
No. 9, Canon IX [2:20]
No. 10, Canon X [1:29]
No. 11, Canon XI [2:22]
No. 12, Canon XII [1:17]
Amalia Hall (violin), David Starobin (guitar)