New York is the city which fascinates and inspires Ruders. Time and again he goes back there to work. Manhattan Abstraction (1982) subtitles a symphonic skyline for large orchestra, was conceived there. Ruders' British colleague Oliver Knussen defines the piece as: - a performance of an extraordinary Modern-Times-like construction. It is a sort of symphonic sculpture, which in the composer’s own words propels forth from one particular inspiration: the New York profile, as seen from Liberty Island, one icy cold January day with its open, clear sky and dazzling sun light.
Manhattan Abstraction appears as an amalgam of some of the compositorial habits found in present pieces. For instance, are present here compositorial ideas and melodic loans from Capriccio Pian’e Forte, 2nd String Quartet (1979), Four Compositions (1980), and 2nd Piano Sonata (1982). The question at hand is mainly concerned with the enhanced elaboration of Ruders' use of the classic English change-ringing system: a permuting method pre-determining the order of tone-appearances and/or tone groups; a serial technique in other words.
In spite of the rigidly fixed material, Ruders somehow manages to chisel out a personal expression by way of emphasizing contrasting elements already existing within the material itself. The spiky, repetitive sections form a counterpart to a more human violin-solo. This dialectical tension is - as hinted by the title - a symphonic abstraction of a fascinating metropolis; the most beautiful and the ugliest. The subtitle: a symphonic skyline reflects the musical erection of the Manhattan profile, which under the clear sky, materializes into the most powerful and compelling man-made sculpture on earth.
Thus Manhattan Abstraction is a homage to, as well as a vision of, this giant contraption of concrete, glass, and chrome.
© Anders Beyer