POUL RUDERS (b.1949): Viola Concerto, Handel Variations (World Premiere Recordings).
Catalogue Number: 03T068
Description: Ruders claims "To entertain, to enrich and to disturb" as a personal mantra, and although he has long made it clear that he regards statements by composers to be otiose, this does seem to fit the overall tenor of his output rather well, and it certainly applies to the extended - 40-minute, 90-variation - Handel Variations. Eight measures from the Bourrée of the Water Music provide a memorable, trivial theme. Ruders starts out with witty, lightweight transformations of this fragment, with the increasing intrusion of rudely anachronistic material. But little by little the style moves further and further away from literal variations. The composer speaks of a 'gallery' of portraits of Handel, beginning with representational likenesses and gradually becoming more distorted and abstract. What happens in the music is that the 'entertaining' opening section transforms into a richer, stranger, more serious style, achieving a certain monumental, visionary quality more akin to Ruders' symphonies and other large-scale works (e.g. 01S009, 07N094). But then the music takes on a more threatening aspect and we are closer to the world of Selma Jezková (07N095) the sinister Nightshades (03Q069) and The Handmaid's Tale (01C095), with their pervasive air of gloom and menace. The Viola Concerto is from 1993-94 and is among Ruders' most consistently dark works. Less tonally oriented than many of his more recent works, the concerto's 25 minutes and three movements are tense and thorny, polyphonically dense, with the viola's pleading lyricism a lonely voice in a shadowy landscape. Only at the very end is there a fleeting, visionary glimpse of serenity, immediately before the curtain comes down. Lars Anders Tomter (viola), Aarhus Symphony Orchestra; Marc Soustrot, Andreas Delfs (Variations).