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POUL RUDERS was born in Ringsted, Denmark on March 27, 1949. His early studies in piano and organ led to studies in orchestration with the Danish composer Ib Norholm. Ruders's first compositions date from the mid-60s. Ruders regards his own compositional development as a gradual one, with his true voice emerging with the chamber concerto, Four Compositions, of 1980. Writing about Ruders, the English critic Stephen Johnson stated: "He can be gloriously, explosively extrovert one minute-withdrawn, haunted, intently inward-looking the next. Super-abundant high spirits alternate with pained, almost expressionistic lyricism; simplicity and directness with astringent irony."
Poul Ruders has created a large body of music ranging from opera and orchestral works through chamber, vocal and solo music. In recent years, performances of his work on both sides of the Atlantic and in such distant locals as China, Japan and Russia have taken place with increasing regularity. With the overwhelming success of his second opera, The Handmaid's Tale (1996-98), produced in Copenhagen (2000) and based on Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name, Ruders became even more in demand. Commissions soon came in rapid succession from the Berlin Philharmonic, The New York Philharmonic, The BBC Philharmonic, and the Royal Danish Opera. Productions of The Handmaid's Tale were given in the 2002-03 season by The English National Opera and by the Minnesota Opera, and both the New York Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic performed "Listening Earth" (2001), a work interrupted and then influenced by the events of September 11, 2001.
Poul Ruders is currently at work with his Handmaid's Tale collaborator Paul Bentley, on an opera based on Franz Kafka's "The Trial." Commissioned by the Royal Danish Opera for the opening of the new opera house in Copenhagen (2005), the opera will explore Kafka's unfinished masterpiece, as well as including dramatized events from the writer's life. In 2003, Ruders served as composer-in-residence at the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado and the New Music Seminar at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Danish musicologist Per Erland Rasmussen of the Carl Nielsen Academy (Odense, Denmark) is currently working on a book about Ruders's music.