This is one of two recordings from the Boston Modern
Orchestra Project (BMOP) of which I received an mp3 preview. I regret
that the other was well removed from my comfort zone.
I’m not aware that I have encountered the music of Elena Ruehr before,
though there are two recordings of her music on Avie, one of which,
also recently released, with the generic title Lift
chamber music (AV2319). The earlier CD, of music for soprano, baritone,
chorus and orchestra was well received, though we seem to have missed
it here at MusicWeb International (AV2263).
Having tried and disliked the other BMOP sampler, I turned with trepidation
to Ruehr’s music and immediately found myself enjoying it. As one reviewer
wrote of Averno
, the major work on the earlier Avie CD, there
is little here to frighten the horses, but I would add that there is
much to challenge the listener and to enjoy. It’s all sui generis
so it’s hard to describe, but I think that if you like Arvo Pärt or
John Tavener – The Protecting Veil
, perhaps – you should like
this recording. Significantly, the composer writes in the booklet,
with clearly implied regret, of the neglect of melody in 20th
music theory classes. Even if you don’t subscribe to Qobuz
you could listen to short samples there and judge for yourself; subscribers
can stream or purchase the download. As my preview was at a low bit-rate
(192 kb/s), I used the Qobuz streamed version for this review.
The music ranges in date from Ruehr’s postgrad student days at the
Juilliard and the University of Michigan to the present. Three of
the pieces are inspired by the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, illustrated
on the cover and in the booklet, though I wasn’t able to discern any
particular programmatic links. Another influence stems from the composer’s
love of dance, evident in the strong rhythm of much of the music.
As these are, to the best of my knowledge, the only available recordings,
I have no benchmark against which to judge them but the quality of
the performances certainly contributed to my enjoyment and appreciation.
The recording is also very good.
Not an essential purchase, then, but a reassuring reminder that some
composers are still writing powerful music which combines a modern idiom
with an appealing beauty. Now I must explore one or both of those Avie
also offers a download version of an Albany recording of Ruehr’s music
(TROY1117 – also available for streaming from Naxos
). Spot-sampling from NML suggests that that, too,
combines something important to say with approachability of style.