RUDERS Occam's Razor (David Starobin)
In honour of William of Ockham’s famous dictum that the simplest solution tends to be the correct one, the eighth and final movement of Poul Ruders’s suite Occam’s Razor (2013) is, in the composer’s own words, ‘the simplest music I’ve ever and am likely ever to compose’. There is plenty of complexity in the preceding seven, a character suite for oboe and guitar providing plenty of opportunities for sly, straight-faced humour here for Liang Wang and David Starobin.
Starobin, without doubt one of the world’s greatest exponents of the guitar, has known Ruders for over 30 years and something of that longstanding relationship – which has produced many solo pieces, chamber music and two concertos – is celebrated in this enterprising and fascinating release. Pages is an open collection of to date 13 miniature solo pieces, all written on a single page, begun in 2008. Each takes a specific attribute and illustrates it in music of beguiling charm. Six are featured here, as are two cantus firmuses from Three for Two (2016), a model of the expressivity possible from the utmost precision.
The 12 canons that comprise Schrödinger’s Cat explore variously the space between musical precision and expressive liberality. The most complex music here, it is the work needing the closest listening. Not so the delightfully witty guitar-and-percussion New Rochelle Suite (2003 06), written for Starobin and his daughter Allegra, and the newest work, Air with Changes (2018), a beautifully vibrant variation set given here in Ruders’s own version for guitar quartet, played by Starobin with three of his students. The performances throughout are wonderfully vivid and musical, and superbly engineered (being recorded in four locations on six occasions across eight years, 2010 18). Recommended.