• Poul Ruders
  • Harpsichord Concerto (2019)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

Commissioned by Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, for Mahan Esfahani.
Co-commissioned by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

  • 2(pic).2(ca).2.2/
  • hpd
  • 19 min

Programme Note

Should one, when listening to my Concerto for Harpsichord and Symphony Orchestra, entertain the suspicion, that the composer has brought the past into the present – and vice versa – then one is not completely off the mark. I've always been fascinated by the form of restoration architecture, with which old, disused, but conservation worthy buildings, such as churches, factories and ware houses, are being given a new identity and purpose through a happy symbiosis between contemporary ideas and inventions, a modernity that hasn't congealed through blind self- indulgence.

The harpsichord is an instrument normally associated with music from the Baroque, in other words a “period instrument”, which, for better or worse, is marooned in the past. However, new compositions have been written for the harpsichord, solo and with ensemble, but not until well into the twentieth century.

As a young man I myself played the harpsichord and developed a solid “hands on” (literally) relationship with the instrument, but didn't compose anything for it till 1985, the year when Book 1 of Cembal d'Amore came about, a piece in which the past meets the present in the guise of a piano! There're now 2 Books entitled Cembal d'Amore . And that was enough harpsichord. I thought. But little did I know…

Because, one day, a couple of years ago, a commission from Aarhus Symphony Orchestra popped up on the computer screen, a new piece for harpsichord and symphony orchestra, starring the phenomenal harpsichord virtuoso Mahan Esfahani. Now, there was an offer I couldn't refuse, a well-timed opportunity for me to create the perfect symbiosis between “yesterday” and “today” (but without slipping into hackneyed neoclassicism), not only stylistically, but also on a practical level. The harpsichord was never supposed to appear with the modern symphony orchestra, an obvious balance issue springs to mind, but involving a carefully prepared and controlled electronic amplification, a new world of constellations between harpsichord and orchestra presents itself, unexpected sonorous alliances, that would be unthinkable (and impossible) without amplification. Selected purists and period-instrument fundamentalists will be horrified…the mere thought is abominable. But so be it.

I could, however, be granted a “reduced sentence”, observing the time-honored order of movements in a classical concerto, in which the first movement is fast, the second slow, and the third…well…just you wait…

Poul Ruders

December 2019




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