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Poul Ruders

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Corpus Cum Figuris (1985)
Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Large Ensemble (7+ players)
Year Composed
20 Minutes
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Programme Note
Poul Ruders Corpus Cum Figuris (1985)
Corpus Cum Figuris, or "Body with Figurations", is a uniform composition in three major parts. The first part is a slow "marche funébre", a kind of prologue with dark and sombre sounds and a massive wall of chords which leads us to the other part of the works where the static and solemn atmosphere is suddenly stopped and replaced by a rhythmic/melodic ritual which accelerates the music. In the third part the block structure is softened gradually, different figurations and stylistic elements arise to live their own lives: distant waltzes and pictures from the Middle Ages appear in this gigantic sonorous body. After a wild percussion orgy a short flash-back and a scream from the edge end Corpus cum Figuris.

The piece has no literal content at all, even though the title leads the thought to Adrian Leverkühn’s Apocalipsis cum Figuris from Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus. More likely, my piece will arouse associations as with all my music. It has to be heard in it’s own conditions, in this case as a big body of music or perhaps as a great screen where the details, of course, are part of the whole body but at the same time are foreign and odd. It is as if one climbs a mountain and from the top of that mountain discovers a world which is completely different from expected.

Corpus cum Figuris for 20 musicians was composed in 1984, commissioned by Ensemble InterContemporain and the Danish Radio. Ensemble InterContemporain world premiered the work in April 1985 conducted by Peter Eötvös. The piece was also played at the ISCM-festival in Amsterdam by Netherland Radio Chamber Orchestra conducted by Ernest Bour.

- Poul Ruders.

Score preview

  • Ensemble
    Ensemble InterContemporain
    Peter Eötvös
  • Ensemble
    Aarhus Sinfonietta
    Søren K. Hansen
[...] On the previous evening on piece plainly stood out in a programme dominated by the theatrical. In his "Corpus cum Figuris" of 1984, Poul Ruders, one of the Danish composers featured at this year's festival, projects his message in ways forceful, complex and overwhelming. The work seems to contain everything. There are ritualistic repetitions within great blocks of sound, as well as ideas that swirl about freely. There are glimpses of music from past ages. There is the slow and the fast, the dense and the spare, the gentle and the aggressive. But above all there is the sensation that each thought has been translated into exactly the right sound. Ruders means it, ugliness and all; and the work's progress was a tide against which ti wa impossible for listeners (and one suspects, composer) to swim. [...]
The Times, Stephen Pettitt,02/07/1987
SPCO RECTIFIES U.S. MUSIC SLIGHT Last year the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra took a bit of heat for completely ignoring American music during American Music Week. This year, by design or chance, the oversight has been rectified; the opening concert of the SPCO's 1986-87 New Music Series, performed Friday in the Ordway Studio Theatre, included works by three American composers. [...] The program also included the premiere of "Tributaries", a compact, likable seven-minute work inspired by the music of Druckman, Copland and Stravinsky, and the first local perfonace of "Corpus-cum Figuris", an energetic, lively an splendidly clangeorous essay by the young Danish cmposer Poul Ruders, whose use of percussion is both liberal and effective. [...]
Roy M. Close, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch,09/11/1986
[...] Much more excitement came with the U.S. premiere of the oten electrically tense and just as often freshly lyrical "Corpus cum Figuris" by Denmark's Poul Ruders.
The Village Voice, Leighton Kerner,24/06/1986
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