Carl Ruggles Portals programme note
Carl Ruggles Portals [7']
Carl Ruggles was born in Massachusetts in 1876 and died in Vermont in 1971. A slow worker who eventually gave up composition for painting, his output consists of barely a dozen works. These, however, ensure his place alongside his friend Charles Ives as one of the most remarkable individualists in American musical history. Independently of European precedents he arrived at a style of contrapuntal free atonality in the early decades of the 20th century, most spectacularly explored in his Men and Mountains (1924) and Sun-Treader (1931), both for large orchestra.
Portals (1925) is a short, intense composition for string orchestra. It is inspired by Whitman's lines
"What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the Unknown? And what are those of life but for Death?" The composer described it as a set of "rhapsodic variations based on a theme of seven measures announced at the beginning by the cellos and basses in octaves."