POUL RUDERS (b.1949): Vol. 15 - Piano Concerto No. 2 “Paganini Variations” (Anne-Marie McDermott [piano]), Kafkapriccio for Orchestra, Cembal d’amore Book 2 for Harpsichord and Piano (Quattro Mani).
Catalogue Number: 01V064
Description: Volume 15 of this valuable series contains much to enjoy, or as the composer likes to say: "To entertain, to enrich and to disturb". The piano concerto in the form of variations on the 24th Caprice tests the limits of the malleability of the theme, the suitability for reworking of which Ruders ascribes to its "brilliant banality" - you can do almost anything to it, and it remains recognizable. And so, he does. Sometimes the music sounds as though spun off from the virtuoso Romanticism of Rachmaninov or Lutosławski's treatments; sometimes glacial clustered accompaniments and sinister chords suggest the composer's sinister Nightshades. Some variations are meltingly lovely, others deeply unnerving, others, like the finale, that begins like a Baroque toccata decorated with shards of the theme and turns into a helter-skelter thrill ride, hectically exhilarating. Harmonically they run the gamut from diatonic to cluster- ridden, the whole imbued with a sense of fun as Ruders delights in jumping from one idiom to another with the alacrity of an acrobat and the timing of a perfectly delivered punchline. Cembal d’Amore 2 is a deliciously eccentric quasi-baroque suite in eight virtuosic movements. The unlikely combination of instruments works perfectly, with each exploring its own keyboard techniques and timbres in music that is sufficiently strongly based in tonality and traditional forms for the allusions to a conventional suite of dances to be instantly appreciable, transcribed into a surreal, dreamlike, sometimes almost nightmarish, form, frequently suggesting possessed music boxes or player pianos reinterpreting authentic Baroque music for themselves. Ruders' 2005 opera, Kafka's Trial, blends details from the self-tormenting author's life, especially his relationship with Felice Bauer, one of the many women to whom he failed to make a commitment, with scenes from his novel “The Trial”. The opera is at once comical, surreal - and deeply harrowing, thus perfectly in the spirit of Kafka himself. Ruders condensed the opera into this five- movement symphonic suite in 2008. It captures the absurdism of the drama in the riotous Klezmer- infused opening movement, the pathos of the failed relationship with Felice in the desolate second, various surreal scenes from the novel, and its protagonist's tragically meaningless execution in the grim, doom-laden finale. Odense Symphony Orchestra; Benjamin Shwartz, Andreas Delfs.