Thomas Søndergård

Poul Roders: Concertos

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Poul Ruders, the most important Danish composer to emerge in the late twentieth century, has established one of the most respected international reputations of any living composer. The scope of his work, which includes opera, orchestral music, concertos, and chamber music, and the breadth of his compositional vision and technique, make his a formidable voice in the landscape of contemporary music. The three concertos recorded here, two of which have been received multiple previous recordings, offer ample evidence of his mastery. Concerto in Pieces (1995), written on commission from the BBC, was intended as a companion piece for Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Like Britten, Ruders takes a theme by Purcell and uses it as the basis for a set of variations that highlight the different sections of the orchestra. Ruders' work inhabits a postmodern aesthetic universe very different from Britten's, but his music is every bit as engaging, which apparently astonished audiences who knew Ruders only based on the reputation of his more "difficult" pieces. The concerto is brilliantly orchestrated and full of delightful sonorities, gorgeous timbral details, and zany, surprising juxtapositions. It is clearly "modern music," but it would take a rigid traditionalist not to be charmed by its winsome appeal and antic energy. The Violin Concerto (1981) has a strongly lyrical, melodic character, undergirded by a neo-classical impulse, but with a thoroughly contemporary sensibility; it's not surprising that it is becoming established as a favorite with audiences and violinists. Monodrama, Drama Trilogy II for percussion and orchestra, the most abstract and modern-sounding piece included here, moves from being creepily atmospheric to darkly menacing. The performances by Thomas Søndergård conducting the Århus Symphony Orchestra, with Erik Heide, violin, and Mathias Reumert, percussion, are sophisticated but energetic. Dacapo's sound is clean by nicely resonant. Highly recommended for fans of new orchestral music.

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