Lift: Chamber Music of Elena Ruehr

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Award-winning composer Elena Ruehr’s Avie Records debut, Averno, introduced three of her big and bold works for choir and orchestra. For her follow up, Ruehr scales down to intimate solo and chamber works for strings and piano, all with references to older music in some way. Baroque elements infuse Klein Suite for solo violin, Prelude Variations for viola and piano, and The Scarlatti Effect for piano trio. The three movements of the jazz-tinged Second Violin Sonata, are dedicated to people who have influenced Ruehr’s work: her composition teacher William Bolcom, jazz teacher Eddie Russ, and Oscar Peterson whom Ruehr met on New Year’s Eve 1980. Adrienne and Amy was written in honour of the pioneering American composer Amy Beach and her biographer Adrienne Fried Block. The virtuosic and lyrical title track for solo cello was inspired by Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school pupil and education activist. Boston-based Ruehr, whose wide-ranging works are performed from coast to coast, teaches at MIT. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.


A gorgeous-sounding collection of Elena Ruehr’s lyrical and modern chamber music.

This collection of recent (1997 to 2012) chamber music by Elena Ruehr is a glorious-sounding and exquisitely performed disc. The reproduction is a perfect combination of detail and reverberation that is mesmerizing. As I mentioned in a previous review of an orchestral disc of music by this Guggenheim fellow, the music here is full of resplendent melodies that she describes as “the most complex and human of musical experiences.” Her background as a dancer provides her music with a rhythmic pulse, yet there’s depth here. “The idea is that the surface be simple, the structure complex,” she explains.

A common element in these works is the composer’s reference to older music and musicians who have taught and inspired these chamber works. The album title, Lift (2013)was inspired by Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, the student activist who was shot by a Taliban gunman for promoting education and equal rights for women. She survived and has become an international spokeswoman for her cause. Its dedicatee, cellist Jennifer Kloetzel (of the Cypress String Quartet), is the soulful performer of this work that combines lyricism with sincerity that reflects Malala’s cause. The Second Violin Sonata’s (2012) three movements are tributes to the composer’s musical mentors: her teacher William Balcom; jazz pianist and composer Eddie Russ who taught her as a teenager and Oscar Peterson, who Ruehr met in 1980. It’s a jazz-inflected work that expresses a variety of emotions: contemplation; plaintive musings and funky utterances.

This is a collection of chamber music that reflects the current age of tonality with enough modern techniques to make it interesting.

-- Audiophile Edition

Product Description:

  • Release Date: January 02, 2015

  • Catalog Number: AV2319

  • UPC: 822252231922

  • Label: AVIE Records

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Contemporary

  • Composer: Elena Ruehr

  • Performer: Irina Muresanu, Ethan Filner, Jennifer Kloetzel, Sarah Bob