March 27, 1949 -
born in Ringstead, Zealand, composed during the Contemporary period
Poul Ruders is generally considered the foremost Danish composer of the postwar generation, having forged a solid reputation as an eclectic willing to use a variety of techniques and styles. In his works he has incorporated features of minimalism, Medieval and Renaissance-era styles, popular music sources, various tonal and atonal elements, and has even developed a system of shaping and organizing pitch.
Ruders sang in the Copenhagen Boys' Choir as a child and later enrolled at the Odense Conservatory where he studied keyboard. He was awarded a degree in 1975 from the Royal Danish Conservatory in organ and had limited private studies in composition with Ib Nørholm and Kar Rasmussen. Ruders himself has asserted that he is largely self-taught in the area of composition and his claim appears largely justified. His earliest surviving works (he has withdrawn several from his early years) are Three Letters from the Unknown Soldier, for solo piano, dating to 1967, and Requiem, for solo organ, from 1968.
In the mid-1970s Ruders began to draw on earlier music styles for some of his compositions: Medieval Variations (1974), for chamber ensemble, and the Violin Concerto No. 1 (1981), which incorporates quotations from Vivaldi and Schubert, exhibit this trait. Though Ruders served as an organist at churches in the 1970s and did freelance work as a pianist and organist as well, he has relied chiefly on composition as his source of income for most of his career. Indeed--he had begun receiving substantial commissions for large works like his 1982 ballet, Manhattan Abstraction, and his first opera, Tycho (1986).
In 1991 Ruders relocated to London, where he lived for the next three years. During this time he accepted a guest professorship at Yale University and turned out most of the three parts to one of his most popular and highly praised orchestral works, Solar Triology (1992-95). He returned to Copenhagen in 1994, where he completed the final panel of this work, Corona.
His Symphony No. 2 (1995-96) dates to this period, and his second opera followed shortly afterward, The Handmaid's Tale (1997-98), which was premiered in Copenhagen in 2000. In the new century Ruders continues to turn out music in various genres. His third opera, Kafka's Trial, was premiered in March, 2005, at the Royal Danish Opera's new opera house in Copenhagen. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi