Summer heat – Poul Ruders’ Solar Trilogy

by Ben Hogwood

After yesterday’s languid summer overtones made by Debussy, I have opted for a very different portrayal of heat in today’s selection. The Danish composer Poul Ruders wrote his celebrated Solar Trilogy between 1992 and 1995, describing in it the life and behaviour of the Sun.

This time we get an immediate sense of the overwhelming heat generated by our nearest star from the off. It is fascinating to compare Ruders’ writing with that of Holst in The Planets. Here Ruders portrays the sheer solar energy at work, using all corners of the orchestra to create some truly vast sounds. This is modern music that responds really well to repeated listening, and could easily be used as part of a film or game soundtrack.

The trilogy begins with a stunning stroke in the form of Gong, a piece that seethes with activity and rhythmic drive, before moving onto the central Zenith, whose atmosphere grows very gradually but with considerable tension.

Finally Corona describes an eclipse of the sun, with a ‘sizzling’ start, to quote the composer, before running off at a terrific pace. With an insistent drive it radiates outwards, the orchestra effectively a supergiant star.

Danish composer Ruders continues to write a great deal of music with orchestra, and his work is incredibly descriptive and rewarding. To find out more and to hear more of his music, visit his website here – while at the bottom of this page you will find a dedicated Spotify playlist including the Solar Trilogy and the most recent recording of Ruders’ music, with Mahan Esfahani in the recent Harpsichord Concerto. In contrast, the orchestral piece Nightshade of 1986 completes the selection:

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