MUSIC / Bournemouth SO / Kees Bakels - Cheltenham Festival

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The Independent Culture
Try to predict what the next piece by Poul Ruders will sound like, and you may as well search for sunshine in a Nordic mid- winter. But a consistent personality lurked beneath the quirks in his earlier works, and it has emerged with ever more confidence. What it has to say seems to touch on the less bearable kind of reality, but it is doing so with a visionary power.

Two years ago, his Symphony held a Prom audience transfixed with gloom. His Violin Concerto No 2, given its British premiere on Monday, gets in to the same subterrain of the soul, with a brooding slow opening and an even slower movement of positively ecstatic melancholy to follow, though its own character is quite distinct.

Much stems from the first musical image, murky overlapping descents with the violin soaring freely above. What follows has a more expansive and frankly emotional temper than the numbed stasis at the heart of the symphony, and wide-spanning Mahlerian lines open windows on to an all-too- brief melodic beauty. Later, the music surges upwards. The finale, a short and surreal acceleration of what has gone before - which almost swamps a hyperactive soloist - inevitably collapses again.

Rebecca Hirsch played the piece with alarming intensity. She was expressively supported by the orchestra, which had prefaced it with a calm and controlled performance of the Tippett Concerto for Orchestra, presenting what used to seem an edgy reaching-out of musical language very much as an extension of the composer's well-assured grasp.

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