Born: March 27, 1949
Country: Ringsted, Denmark
Studies: Royal Danish Academy, Copenhagen
Teachers: Ib Nørholm
Ruders trained as an organist, and studied orchestration with Karl Aage Rasmussen. Ruders's first compositions date from the mid-1960s. Ruders regards his own compositional development as a gradual one, with his true voice emerging with the chamber concerto, Four Compositions, of 1980. His notable students include Marc Mellits.
Writing about Ruders, the English critic Stephen Johnson states: "He can be gloriously, explosively extrovert one minute – withdrawn, haunted, intently inward-looking the next. Super-abundant high spirits alternate with pained, almost expressionistic lyricism; simplicity and directness with astringent irony."
Ruders has created a large body of music ranging from opera and orchestral works through chamber, vocal and solo music in a variety of styles, from the Vivaldi pastiche of his first violin concerto (1981) to the explosive modernism of Manhattan Abstraction (1982).
Other works include the operas Tycho (1986), The Handmaid's Tale (1990, with libretto by Paul Bentley), Proces Kafka/Kafka's Trial (2005, again with libretto by Bentley), and Selma Ježková (2007, after Trier's ‘Dancer in the Dark’), five symphonies, four string quartets, Violin Concerto No. 1 (1981), Etude and Ricercare (1994) for guitar, for David Starobin, The Bells (songs) with Lucy Shelton, soprano, and the Christmas Gospel (1994) and two piano sonatas; Abysm (2000) for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Ruders has written several works for the American guitarist and promoter of new music David Starobin: Psalmodies (1989) and Paganini Variations for guitar and orchestra (1999–2000), and Psalmodies Suite (1990), Etude and Ricercare (1994) and Chaconne (1996) for solo guitar. Ruders has composed a Concerto in Pieces (1995), which is a set of variations on the "Witches' Chorus" from Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas.
His fourth symphony, An organ symphony, (with a significant part for organ) was a joint international commission by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Odense Symphony Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The world premiere took place in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas, 20 January 2011.
How does one describe a phenomenon like Poul Ruders? No sooner have you found the mot juste than something in the music clamours to contradict it. He can be gloriously, explosively extrovert one minute - withdrawn, haunted, intently inward looking the next. Super-abundant high spirits alternate with pained, almost expressionistic lyricism; simplicity and directness with astringent irony.
Try and restrict the language to technical matters and the paradoxes continue: few composers on the contemporary scene are so versatile, so accomplished, so obviously in command of their tools and materials, and yet the music can give the impression of dancing on the edge of a precipice. It is a language of extremes, commandingly integrated - and perhaps all the more startling for that.
Finding his voice has taken him longer than many other composers, he admits, but it has also been an adventure - a period of experimentation and discovery which has led him in all manner of directions, metaphorically and literally; confronting American minimalism in the early eighties and developing his own perspective; making London his spiritual home later in that decade and employing the peculiar English technique of ‘change-ringing’; exploring – in his own words – female values in the nineties as a vital counterbalance to the world of violence and desolation he had opened up in his previous works.
In the opera The Handmaid‘s Tale (1996-98) more than in any of his other works - Ruders draws together the themes which have preoccupied him for so long: The apocalyptic, the elemental and the human, aching tenderness, grotesque irony, despair – however, also, as in the closing pages of the First Symphony (1989), a flicker of hope. For Ruders, perhaps, ‘The One True Path’ is that there is no path at all. And thus the adventure continues.
Works for Percussion
Alarm - Multiple Percussion
Cha-Cha-Cha - Multiple Percussion
De Profundis - Multiple Percussion, Pianos (2)
Monodrama - Multiple Percussion, Orchestra
Regime - Percussion Trio
Towards the Precipice - Multiple Percussion
Wind-Drumming - Percussion Quartet, Woodwind Quintet