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Poul Ruders (b.1949): Symphony No. 5 / Olari Elts, Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Notes & Reviews:

This disc presents the world premiere recording of Poul Ruders's latest symphony, completed in 2013. The symphony, composed in three movements is, in some ways, the great Danish composer's most traditional symphony- an explosive, quick-paced first movement followed by an hypnotically inward-looking slow movement, followed by a bristling dance finale. Aside from its outer-trappings, Ruders 5 inhabits a sound world all its own. The first movement's opening brass fanfare is followed immediately by startling police whistles and pounding drums- music of volcanic power and intensity. The slow movement employs a huge registral span, and the third movement's funky dance rhythms collide with dense harmonic underpinnings. The work is given a brilliant reading by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, led by the Estonian maestro, Olari Elts. The recording was made in the Danish Radio's new concert hall, named by Gramophone, as one of the "10 best concert halls in the world".


A Fiery Fifth
In one sense, this release of Poul Ruder's Fifth Symphony isn't much of a bargain. The entire album clocks in at 26:30, far below the average of 72 minutes for a classical release. But folks who shop by cost per second of playing time aren't the audience for this music, anyway.

Rather, this release is for listeners who values quality over quantity. They'll appreciate this Bridge Records offering.

Poul Ruders almost gave his three-movement symphony the subtitle "Ring of Fire." Like the famous Pacific ring, the calm middle (representing the ocean), is bounded by two explosive movements of orchestral pyrotechnics (like the volcanoes surrounding the Pacific). While this isn't a programmatic work, the analogy fairly describes the form of the work.

The opening fanfare originally came from Ruder's 2011 "Sonatas," but here it's been substantially reworked and gets extensively developed. Ruders is an innovative orchestrator, and while the movement crackles with drama, it does so with small groupings of instruments rather than hammering away at the listener with the full weight of the orchestra.

The serene second movement is a study in suspended sound. Souring, delicate melodies float above a thinly orchestrated background. The abbreviated finale comes crashing in, disrupting the calm with a return of the storm. And yet the work doesn't end in a cataclysm. Rather, the music seems to break apart, losing bits of energy and force before simply... stopping.

When I heard the finale, I understood why Bridge Records chose to release this symphony without any "filler." Any additional music would dilute the force of the ending, and perhaps the work as a whole. This is a symphony that needs to be heard on its own terms, without additional context.

And, yes, I think it's well worth the price.
Submitted on 03/17/17 by RGraves321 
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