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Work Information

Poul Ruders : Nightshade

Publisher Wilhelm Hansen
Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed 1987
9 Minutes
Orchestration 1.1.0+cbcl.0+cbn/
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Full Score(s) KP00203

Programme Note


NIGHTSHADE is an instrumental dark-room, a grave-yard of low-pitched, tight-knitted, crawling chords sliced asunder by the cold extremely high positioned movements of the oboe and violin in particular: tones sustained to near-immobility and then scared into startling velocity, like geckoes on a Southern garden wall.

Shades in the night are pale and gloomy phenomenons to behold; treacherous beauties in the mighty realm of invisibility and blackness. Belladonna (beautiful lady) is the morbid christening of that fearsome variety of flora: the deadly nightshade.

The piece is, on one hand, a study in extreme sonorities; the infrequently used contrabass clarinet is being employed along with the contra-bassoon, forming the ultra-low foundation of the score and the bottom-register of the French horn and the trombone is set against the serene clarity of high violin and oboe.

On the other hand, the piece is a tone-poem of sorts, on the various associations as they form within the mind of the individual listener when confronted with the very word NIGHTSHADE. Personally, I come to think of pale moonlight, tombstones, the compelling as well as frightening spell of a dark forest. A Study in black the piece has been called.

Poul Ruders


  • Formally, Nightshade is...hard to grasp, but musically and expressively it's far more interesting, a miniature tone poem set in the lower depths with a sound world dominated by contrabass clarinet and contrabassoon, and illuminated by occasional shafts of light from high-register violin and woodwind. As a study in bleakness, it's hard to beat.
    Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 07/10/2008


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