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Martin Cotton
BBC Music Magazine, February 2012

Recorded sound is clear and performances are committed, as you would expect from the BCMG and Oliver Knussen. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine Read complete review

Carla Rees
MusicWeb International, July 2011

Four Dances in One Movement has a distinctive chamber music feel, with spacious scoring and well considered use of instrumental colours. The quiet opening features a duo between the soft-toned clarinet and ethereal violin, creating a wonderfully captivating and gentle mood. This gives way to a mournful section, which is entitled ‘Rocking’ and has a mournful feel. The music then breaks into the bright ‘Ecstatic’ dance, with sparkling high-pitched sounds and some well chosen percussion, before the final, and longest, dance. ‘Extravagant’ once again changes the mood for the finale. The ending is particularly appealing, and surprisingly subdued. As the title suggests, these dances have rhythm at their centre, and even the quieter sections radiate a sense of rhythmic energy which underpins the whole work. There are some beautiful moments in this piece, and the climactic points have a great sense of excitement about them. Extremely enjoyable, and it seemed much shorter than its 19 and a half minute duration.

Nightshade has a wonderfully dark opening which immediately gives a sense of ominous power. The title refers to the plant, Deadly Nightshade. This piece has a sense of concentration about it, with much intensity throughout. The ten instruments provide a much fuller orchestral sound than one would ordinarily expect.

Abysm is a three movement large ensemble work whose opening shares the dark tone of the previous work. Resonant, low piano notes set a sombre mood. The title is derived from a Shakespearean line which makes reference to divination and the occult. There is a dark, underlying strength that continues throughout the first movement of the work. The second movement is a busy interlude for piano and Japanese woodblocks, which describes birds pecking at a burning road. This is a reference to a novel by Farid ud-Din Attar called The Conference of Birds. The final movement is based on Blake, and has a sense of ‘menaced innocence’ with simple, slow-moving melodic lines over dark harmonies with a textural build-up of unusual sounds, such as microtones, harmonics and multiphonics.

The playing is technically excellent on this disc, and one would expect nothing less from BCMG and Knussen. The moods are well captured and Ruders’ music is captivating throughout.

Christopher L Chaffee
American Record Guide, May 2010

Just find this and explore it on your own. It is worth the effort.

Ballet Review, March 2010

RUDERS, P.: 4 Dances in 1 Movement / Nightshade / Abysm (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Knussen) 8.226028
RUDERS: Kafka’s Trial (Proces Kafka, Prozess Kafka) 8.226042–43

The Danish composer Poul Ruders’ Four Dances in One Movement explores timbre and mood to dramatic and often foreboding effect without suggesting specific action or emotions, as if waiting for the right choreographer to come along. The brief Night shade and more elaborate Abysm also show Ruders’ inventive orchestration to ominous effect—music for a latter-day Antony Tudor? Knussen and his Birmingham forces give their all throughout. At sixty, Ruders is best known abroad for his two operas, The Handmaid’s Tale and Kafka’sTrial. The latter combines the action of Kafka’s novel with its author’s epistolary pursuit of a young Berlin woman to whom he became engaged while having an affair with her best friend and the two women’s “trial” of him becomes the opera’s climax. All the singers take on multiple roles as the action moves between these two levels. It may well be very effective in the theater, but with twenty-six scenes the music ends up supporting the drama rather than shaping it. The excellent cast, caught over several performances at the opening of the new opera house in Copenhagen in 2005, is again totally committed and the fine notes include the full text.

David Hurwitz, November 2009

The only thing that qualifies these pieces as chamber works is the presence of solo strings, but in all other respects they are as large and colorful as Poul Ruders’ orchestral compositions. Furthermore, we can be sure that just about any contemporary music program led by Oliver Knussen will do the music full justice…Nightshade…is wonderfully fluent, creepy, and evocative. Ruders is often at his best exploring his darker side; this is evident in Abysm as well. Its second movement, “Burning”, is merely twitchy, but it lasts less than two minutes and the finale (“Spectre”) contains some impressively atmospheric sonorities. The music isn’t easy, but it is powerful, and it’s splendidly played and recorded. Although this is not my favorite Ruders, it’s still a substantial addition to his discography.

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