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Poul RUDERS (b. 1949)
Dream Catcher
Sound and Simplicity (Seven Pillars of Music for Accordion and Symphony Orchestra) (2018) [29.22]
Dream Catcher for Solo Accordion arr. Bjarke Mogensen [4.30]
Symphony No 3 ‘Dream Catcher’ (2005-6 revised 2009) [26.31]
Bjarke Mogensen (accordion)
Odense Symfoniorkester/Scott Yoo (sy), Sebastian Lang-Lessing (Sound)
rec. 2020, Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense, Denmark
BRIDGE 9553 [60.43]

The wittiness and quirkiness noted in so many of Poul Ruders’ works, as, for example, in ‘Four Dances in One movement’ (1984), ‘The Rabbit sends in a little bill’ or his ‘Pestilence Songs’ for soprano, guitar and honky-tonk piano, re-emerge here in two works featuring the piano accordion. One with symphony orchestra. There is also a brief arrangement in a quite surprising, largely Romantic style of a Ruders work called Dream Catcher for Solo Accordion; he is a composer you can never take for granted.

The 3rd Symphony is also subtitled ‘Dream Catcher’; both this work and the one mentioned above use material from an earlier work entitled ‘Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean’, which is scored for accordion and string quartet - clearly the composer saw more in the material than he could originally use.

For me, this symphony is a masterwork. It is in two movements: the first starts violently, but for the rest it is a dreamy Adagio sognante, very beautifully scored predominantly for strings. The second movement is a virtuoso scherzo marked Prestisssimo. The percussion parts, including tam-tams are especially exciting and, as the much-missed Malcolm MacDonald wrote in his notes in 2009, Ruders requires ‘savage shaped sounds’ producing the effect of ‘a sword out of a sheath’ or possibly the picture of a monster devouring a ravishing beauty, as the composer suggests - the Dream Catcher consuming his prey. The final bars have an extraordinary ‘scrunching’ bass noise, which is quite alarmingly realistic. The performance is utterly convincing and the recording allows everything to shine clearly.

Returning to the start, the first work on the disc, Sound and Simplicity, is for accordion and orchestra. Its subtitle, Seven Pillars of Music, alludes, in a way, to its form. Ruders writes “…four out of the seven movements are very simple…. Indeed, in the second movement, ‘Trance’, a sustained chord employs only four notes”. The first, ‘Rain’ is energetic and was inspired by a chapter in a book by Arthur Krasilnikoff in which the elements of the surfaces on which rain falls create in sound a sort of instrument. The third, ‘Haiku’, consists of a swirling, repetitive pattern, mostly for the accordion, which I suppose, fits its title. The next, ‘Smoke’, relates to a quotation from Doris Lessing, ‘The air was full of smoke/ The sky was a yellowish swirl’’. The composer teasingly tells us however, that “the listener is free to contemplate what could possibly be hiding behind the (remaining) titles”; that is ‘Song-link’, which, not surprisingly, creates a long, lyrical but mysterious melodic line, then the quite static ‘Twilight’ and finally the skittish finale, ‘Wolf Moon’. The work, it seems, marks the third panel of the composer’s ‘Accordion Trio’ which includes the aforementioned ‘Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean’.

These are extraordinarily original works and Bridge Records are doing us a wonderful service in gathering a complete Ruders collection. I wonder how many volumes we have yet to go? If you don’t know his music, even though the works are not typical in many ways this could be a good place to start, as they do display his rare genius and fantastical imagination.
Gary Higginson

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