POUL RUDERS (b.1949): Symphony No. 3 "Dreamcatcher", Tundra, Offred Suite (Susanna Philipps [soprano]).
Catalogue Number: 01O071
Description: The Offred Suite is a powerful, encapsulated version, a musical précis, so to speak, of Ruders' 1996-98 opera, The Handmaid's Tale, based on Margaret Atwood's chillingly bleak dystopian novel. The suite is based around pivotal arias sung by the protagonist of the opera, here suggesting ghostly recorded autobiographical memories. In this concise form, the music is extremely effective, the massive, turbulent interludes contrasting with the simple, heartbreakingly lyrical vocal sections, the whole in the composer's customary sumptuously orchestrated, tonality-based idiom. Tundra is a five-minute, highly compressed tribute to Sibelius. Sounding like a modern direct descendent of Tapiola, it features recognisable Sibelian gestures and harmonies, trapped in the permafrost of Ruders' trademark dissonant yet harmonically functional clusters. A decade and a half later, the powerful symphony adopts very much the same harmonic language, a consistently effective feature of Ruders' style. Divided into two diametrically opposed movements - slow/fast; static/active; light/dark, the work's title refers to the Native American shamanic device, though here both benign and nightmarish dreams seem to be examined in a tense subconscious drama. The first movement maintains an unreal, dreamlike atmosphere even as the level of dissonance and departure from its tonal base ebb and flow, while the second movement is a huge totentanz for extravagantly employed full orchestral forces, with hints of the Dies irae and a constant sense of pursuing nightmare. Odense Symphony Orchestra; Scott Yoo.