Happy Birthday – Danish composer Poul Ruders turns 70

Happy Birthday – Danish composer Poul Ruders turns 70
© Lars Skaaning

“I have this motto, or mantra rather, as a composer: I aim to entertain, to enrich and to disturb” – Poul Ruders

On March 27 2019, one of Denmark’s most prominent composers, Poul Ruders, will turn 70. The composer can look back on a musical career that has unfolded over the decades and crossed national borders and modes of expression. At the same time Poul Ruders can look forward to a year full of world and country premieres of his music and restaging of operas.

Despite Ruders’ success, it was not written in the stars that he should become a composer. He was not from a musical home, but played the piano, because: “not playing the piano was not done… but I wasn’t particularly good at it”, as he explains in the portrait video below. But: “it all came together when I was 14-15 years old, when I started taking organ lessons, because I loved the organ, and I decided more or less consciously to become a musician. Very early on the orchestra took over completely.”

And the orchestra did indeed take over. Other than some private lessons with the distinguished Danish composer, Ib Nørholm, Poul Ruders undertook little formal training in composition. His musical output is a journey through a variety of expressions: from experiments with the American minimalism in the 1980s to the adaption of the British ‘change-ringing’-technique – and from the explosively extrovert to the dark, intense and lyrical. But the orchestra as a mode of expression is a connecting thread throughout his production. It includes the symphonic poem Manhattan Abstraction (1982), the tripartite tribute to the sun, the Solar TrilogyGong, Zenith and Corona, the educational composition Concerto in Pieces (1994-95) and the symphonies No. 1 (1989) to No. 5 (2013) – to name just a few.

Since the successful dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale from 1998, Ruders has also written several operas. Later this year number five will receive its world premiere: The fairy tale opera The Thirteenth Child. It will be premiered exactly four months after the composer’s birthday on July 27 at Santa Fe Opera, New Mexico, USA. The commissions for Poul Ruders have come from all over the world and from prestigious ensembles such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Ensemble InterContemporain.

We hope that you will join us in celebrating Poul Ruders in 2019 and beyond!





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04/04: Sound and Simplicity - Seven Pillars of Music for Accordion and Orchestra (world premiere) • Bjarke Mogensen, acc. • Fabien Gabel, cond. • Danish National Symphony Orchestra • Copenhagen, Denmark


05/05: The Handmaid's Tale • Boston Lyric Opera • David Angus, cond. • Lavietes Pavilion, Boston, USA (+ 8/5, 10/5 and 12/5)


27/07: The Thirteenth Child - a Fairytale Opera (world premiere) • Santa Fe Opera • Paul Daniel, cond. • Santa Fe, USA (+ 31/7, 9/8, 14/8 and 21/8)


12/08: Symphony no. 5 (US premiere) • Tanglewood Festival Orchestra • Thomas Adès, cond. • Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival, Massachusetts, USA


10/11: Sound and Simplicity - Seven Pillars of Music for Accordion and Orchestra (Canadian premiere) • Bjarke Mogensen, acc. • Christian Kluxen, cond. • Victoria Symphony Orchestra • Victoria, BC, Canada (+ 11/11)


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