Poul Ruders: Four Dances – Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Knussen

This is a bracing, sensuous ear-opener. Danish composer Poul Ruders (born 1949) calls the first of his Four Dances “Whispering”. It’s a short, gossamer-light study of quietude, of nocturnal rustles, which grows into the delicate boldness of the other three dances: “Rocking”, “Ecstatic” and “Extravagant”. Ruders has always had a gift for texture and colour, a prerequisite for any composer, but he’s a grand master. Nightshade (1987), a dark entwining of low woodwind brightened by glimmering pitched percussion and violin, and the large-scale BCMG commission Abysm (2000), have haunting appeal. Oliver Knussen and his players are expert interpreters.

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