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BBC Music Magazine - Performance: 5 stars - Recording: 5 Stars

November 1, 2022

Steph Power

Poul Ruders Clarinet Quintet; Piano Quartet; Throne Rudersdal Chamber Players,OUR Recordings 6.220680 58:38mins,Performance: 5 stars - Recording: 5 Stars
Poul Ruders (b1949) once remarked that his compositional aim was 'to entertain, enrich and to disturb, not necessarily in that order.' More telling still, the award-winning Dane had earlier noted, 'It is of no iportance to me to choose a "style". It is the metaphysical and emotional content that counts.'
The latter comment dates from 1990, two years following composition of the oldest piece here, Throne for clarinet and piano. Yet, as the Rudersdal Chamber Players attest in wonderfully lucid accounts of all three works, it also holds true for the more recent Clarinet Quintet (2014) and Piano Quartet (2015-16). Each is a taut combination of clean lines and often dissonant, sometimes otherworldly chords built from seemingly small beginnings. Now quirkily playful, now impassioned or bleakly spare, the textures are everywhere sonorous - and ambivalent in their changing moods, yet direct and cohesive in a way that resists comfortable resolution.
Indeed, Ruders excels at enigma - and the performers embody the intimacy that enables its execution, while taking flight where needed. Throne engages clarinetist Jonas Frølund and pianist Manuel Esperilla in a monodic weaving whose intensity is thrown into relief by the surprising, final major chord. The two variously join string players Christine Pryn, Isabelle Bania, Mina Fred and John Ehde for the equally successful - and fascinatingly distinctive - quintet and quartet. While the quintet is a deft, three movement tapestry which holds aloft its woodwind voice, the quartet ranges poetically through four, substantial movements aptly titled 'Awakening', 'lnnocent', 'Sprightly' and 'Translucent'.
Steph Power. November 2022 BBC Music Magazine