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5 stars review in leading Danish Newspaper Politiken

September 1, 2022

Thomas Michelsen

Politiken (DK) 5 Hearts

Musikerne ser glade ud på billedet. Men hos komponisten Poul Ruders er tingene ikke nødvendigvis, som de ser ud til at være.
Rudersdal Chamber Players med klarinettisten Jonas Frølund spiller Poul Ruders' dobbeltbundede musik superbt.
Kammermusik af THOMAS MICHELSEN
Poul Ruders. Rudersdal Chamber Players.
OUR Recordings
5 hjerter.

Klarinetspillet er lækkert. Den musikalske gestik er sprælsk, men også eftertænksom. Musikken kan danse. Men den kan også blive drømmende blød.
Ville Johannes Brahms have komponeret sådan, hvis han havde levet i dag? Nej, selv- følgelig ikke lige akkurat sådan. Men altså, den danske komponist Poul Ruders’ kammermusikværker på et nyt album fra Rudersdal Chamber Players er lige så sikkert skrevet som Brahms’ kammermusikværker fra 1800-tallet. Det er lidt af en ros. Men det er de faktisk.

Uhyggelig lavmælt ro
Poul Ruders er aktuel med helaftensgyseroperaen ’The Handmaid’s Tale’ på Det Kongelige Teater nu i efteråret. En seriøst skræmmende operaudgave af Margaret Atwoods dystopiske roman, der ikke står tilbage for tv-serien – og som i øvrigt blev komponeret, længe inden serien blev lavet.
Ruders kom først. Og har man gennem årene fulgt med i, hvad de nulevende danske komponister går og laver, kender man ham sikkert netop fra ’The Handmaid’s Tale’, som var oppe på Det Kongelige Teater første gang i 2000.
Men man kender ham også fra voldsomme orkesterværker som den symfoniske dommedagsudladning ’Saaledes saa Johannes’ fra 1980’erne og hans enorme ’Sol-trilogi’ fra 1990’erne, hvor musikken dunkede og eksploderede, så musikerne måtte bruge ørepropper. Det er værker, hvor bunden bogstaveligt talt går ud af det klassiske symfoniorkester, og rædslen viser sit ansigt. Vær- ker, der minder mere om en orkestervirtuos som Richard Strauss end på nogen måde om klassicisten Brahms, hvis vi skal trække tråde tilbage til de gamle klassiske komponister.
Ruders kan skrive for orkester, så man får skræmt bukserne af sig. Men i hans intime kammermusikværker, hvoraf tre kan opleves på dette nye album, er det i første om- gang det fremragende kompositionshåndværk, der slår en i møde.
Dette er vellyd af i dag, tænker man lige umiddelbart. Først ved anden gennemlytning gik det op for mig, hvor uhyggelig den lavmælte ro i den langsomme sats af Ruders’ klarinetkvintet for eksempel er. Gisp! Hvad ser vi faktisk ind i her? Noget forunderligt eller noget virkelig slemt?
Det er klarinetten, Brahms’ yndlingsinstrument i hans sene kammermusikværker, der er i fokus. I Ruders’ lange værk ’Throne’ indtager den hovedrollen, og komponisten vil ikke fortælle, hvilken trone der er tale om.

Et tavst ’Game of Thrones’
Dette lange, mystiske stykke for klarinet og klaver er et tavst ’Game of Thrones’, hvor lytteren selv må digte sig frem ud fra en håndfuld stikord. Elevation, Unity, Diamonds, Crown ... mere får vi ikke at pejle efter.
Men det er også nok! Ruders, gysermesteren blandt danske komponister, folder sig i disse værker for få instrumenter ud som drømmeren – og samtidig som håndværkeren, der virkelig ved, hvordan man skriver for de forskellige instrumenter, sådan som det høres i hans kvartet for klaver og strygere.
Noget vågner. Nogen drømmer. Noget gestikulerer, og som i de andre værker på albummet ender musikken med at falde til ro. Er det smukt? Eller foruroligende?
Først lyder det bare som gedigen kammermusik. En opdatering af, hvad den store mester på det felt, gode gamle Brahms, kunne præstere. Men hvad så Johannes, for nu at vende tilbage til titlen på Poul Ruders’ uhyggelige og effektfulde apokalypseværk fra 1980’erne? Han så blege ryttere, død og dommedag.
Lyt til Ruders’ kammermusik. Lyt til den igen – og mærk gyset. Det her er et album, du skal høre flere gange. Du vil blive belønnet for det. Også fordi musikerne i Rudersdal-ensemblet med den fremragende unge klarinettist Jonas Frølund i front spiller virkelig godt.
thomas.michelsen@pol.dk September 1. 2022

Google translation:

The musicians look happy in the picture. But at composer Poul Ruders things are not necessarily what they seem to be.
Rudersdal Chamber Players with the clarinetist Jonas Frølund play Poul Ruders's double bound music superbly.
Chamber music by THOMAS MICHELSEN
Poul Ruders. Rudersdal Chamber Players.
OUR Recordings 5 hearts.

The clarinet playing is delicious. The musical gesture is exuberant, but also thoughtful. The music can dance. But it can also become dreamily soft.
Would Johannes Brahms have composed like this if he had lived today? No, of course, not exactly like that. But then, the Danish composer Poul Ruders' chamber music works on a new album from Rudersdal Chamber Players are just as surely written as Brahms's chamber music works from the 19th century. That's a bit of a compliment. But they actually are.
Eerie low-key calm
Poul Ruders is current with the all-night horror opera 'The Handmaid's Tale' at the Royal Theater this autumn. A seriously terrifying opera version of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, which is not left behind for the TV series - and which, by the way, was composed long before the series was made.
Ruders came first. And if you have been following what the living Danish composers are doing over the years, you probably know him from 'The Handmaid's Tale', which was first performed at the Royal Theater in 2000.
But you also know him from violent orchestral works such as the symphonic doomsday release 'Saaledes saa Johannes' from the 1980s and his enormous 'Sol trilogy' from the 1990s, where the music pounded and exploded, so that the musicians had to use earplugs. These are works where the bottom literally goes out of the classical symphony orchestra, and horror shows its face. Works that are more reminiscent of an orchestral virtuoso like Richard Strauss than in any way of the classicist Brahms, if we have to trace threads back to the old classical composers.
Ruders can write for orchestra to scare the pants off you. But in his intimate chamber music works, three of which can be experienced on this new album, it is first and foremost the excellent compositional craftsmanship that strikes one.
This is the sound of today, one immediately thinks. Only on the second listen did it dawn on me how eerie the low-key calm in the slow movement of Ruders' clarinet quintet, for example, is. Gasp! What are we actually looking at here? Something wonderful or something really bad?
It is the clarinet, Brahms's favorite instrument in his late chamber music works, that is in focus. In Ruders' long work 'Throne', it takes the lead role, and the composer will not say which throne it is.
A silent 'Game of Thrones'
This long, mysterious piece for clarinet and piano is a silent 'Game of Thrones', where the listener must make up their own mind based on a handful of cues. Elevation, Unity, Diamonds, Crown ... we don't get to look for more.
But that is also enough! Ruders, the master of horror among Danish composers, unfolds in these works for few instruments as the dreamer – and at the same time as the craftsman who really knows how to write for the various instruments, as can be heard in his quartet for piano and strings.
Something wakes up. Someone is dreaming. Something gestures and, as in the other works on the album, the music ends up settling down. Is it beautiful? Or disturbing?
At first it just sounds like solid chamber music. An update of what the great master of that field, good old Brahms, could accomplish. But what did Johannes see, to now return to the title of Poul Ruders' eerie and effective apocalypse work from the 1980s? He saw pale riders, death and doomsday.
Listen to Ruders' chamber music. Listen to it again - and feel the thrill. This is an album you need to listen to several times. You will be rewarded for it. Also because the musicians in the Rudersdal ensemble, with the excellent young clarinetist Jonas Frølund, play really well.
thomas.michelsen@pol.dk September 1, 2022