MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Ruders chamber 6220680
Support us financially by purchasing from

Poul Ruders (b. 1949)
Clarinet Quintet (2014)
Throne (1988)
Piano Quartet (2016)
Rudersdal Chamber Players
rec. 2020/21, Nærum Adventiskirke, Rudersdal, Copenhagen

The Danish composer Poul Ruders is probably best known in Britain for his opera The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, which has had two productions here as well as numerous others in other parts of the world, and whose recording won a prize. He has also written several other operas and also a number of impressive symphonies, the fifth of which was one of my records of the year for 2017. I have not previously heard any of his chamber music, so I was glad to have this opportunity to get to know some of it.

There are two relatively recent works and one much earlier. We begin with the clarinet quintet. There are two ways of writing for a clarinet with a string quartet. One is to weave the clarinet into the texture, so that it shares thematic material with the strings but its very different timbre draws attention to itself while appearing to do the opposite. This was the technique of Mozart and Brahms in their clarinet quintets. The other way is to treat the clarinet as more of a concertante instrument, as a soloist, with the string quartet functioning as a tiny orchestra in contrast. This was the method adopted by Weber, and Ruders is closer to this than to the possibly daunting examples of Mozart and Brahms. There are three movements. The first opens with the clarinet in the high register with a rather splintered background from the strings. The mood is highly agitated but in its course it gradually calms down, though there are occasional frenetic outbursts right to the end. The slow movement is quiet with the clarinet wandering round chromatically in the lower register. The finale is full of clarinet flourishes but the mood is cheerful rather than agitated. It is a playful piece, though there is a meditative passage just before the end.

The other recent work is the piano quartet. This is in four movements, each of which has a title, rather than the usual tempo markings. These are: Awakening, Innocent, Sprightly and Translucent. As with the clarinet quintet, Ruders sets his additional instrument, the piano, in opposition to his strings. In the first movement we have tentative staccato phrases from the piano set against long lines on the strings. In the second movement we have slow-moving complex chords on the strings with occasional interjections by the piano – rather as in one of Bartók’s night music pieces. In the third movement we have fast moving strings while the piano has calls to attention. The finale is more like the second movement and, says the composer, is ‘a statement of bell-like clarity.’

Between these two works we have the much earlier Throne, which is written for clarinet and piano. Ruders offers ten words, which he thinks are evocative hints for the character of the piece. They begin Elevation, Unity, Diamonds and so on. I have to admit that I did not find them very helpful. The work begins in the depths of the piano from which a slow dance gradually develops. The pace quickens with the clarinet moving higher and higher in register until we reach a kind of screeching climax. After this there is a long pause before the music resumes quietly.

I found the clarinet quintet and piano quartet impressive though challenging works. I did not care for Throne, which is not a work which does much to engage the listener.

The players here are members of the Rudersdal Chamber Players, based in Rudersdal not far from Copenhagen. This ensemble is based on a piano quartet but they add other players as necessary. The members also play in various orchestras. These performances were clearly carefully prepared and are expertly delivered. The sound quality is good – I was listening in ordinary two-channel stereo but this is a SACD – and the booklet helpful. Fans of Ruders should try this.

Stephen Barber

Rudersdal Chamber Players: Jonas Frølund (clarinet), Christine Pryn and Isabelle Bania (violins), Mina Fred (viola), Manuel Esperilla (piano)

Published: November 23, 2022

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount