Elena Louise Ruehr

Elena Louise Ruehr

Called a “composer to watch” by Opera News, Elena Ruehr’s vocal, orchestral, chamber and film music is “Stunning...beautifully lighted by a canny instinct for knowing when and how to vary key, timbre, and harmony” (Richard Buell,  The Boston Globe, 2003).   In 2007-08, Dr. Ruehr was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, where she wrote Cantata Averno based on poetry of Louise Glück.  Her recordings include an opera, Toussaint Before the Spirits, which was called “impressive… an illuminating historical musical fantasy”  (Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News August 2007), and its premiere “had the audience on its feet, cheering, whistling, and applauding… compelling, emotional, theatrical….takes us back to the beginnings of the art, and to one of the first great operas, Gluck's ''Orfeo'' (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, 2003).  Ruehr has an ongoing collaboration with poet Elizabeth Alexander and Baritone Stephen Salters.

Dr. Ruehr especially enjoys writing for string quartet, in part because of her close working relationship with the award-winning, San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet. She is currently working on a commission from the Cypress Quartet for her Fifth String Quartet, based on the novel Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Her Fourth String Quartet has been described as “music with heart and ...a forceful sense of character and expression”  (The Washington Post November, 2007). Her Third String Quartet was called “an astounding success, conveying an emotional directness the audience could easily grasp, yet still holding musical complexities that should make it a performance staple in the quartet repertory” (Keith Powers, Boston Sunday  Herald, 2002), and was premiered by the  Borremeo Quartet at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival.  Her first work to receive national recognition, including an ASCAP award, was her First String Quartet (1988).  In a review of a performance by the Shanghai Quartet, Josiah Fisk of the Boston Herald wrote in 1995: “there’s no mistaking the profusion of ideas, the adroitness of technique and the restlessness of spirit that permeate this music.”  A recording of her string quartets performed by the Cypress Quartet will be available in 2009. 

Among her several orchestral works, Shimmer has received the most acclaim.  Commissioned by the Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble, it is available through Albany Records and itunes. According to the American Record Guide Shimmer “brings joy to the listener” and continues to receive performances and radio play worldwide.  Ruehr’s interest in orchestral writing also led to her serving as composer-in-residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project from 2000-2005.  Her early orchestral works include awards from the Cincinnati Symphony, the Omaha Symphony, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.  

In film, Ruehr completed a score for the 1913 documentary The Manhattan Trade School for Girls.The music “catapulted [the film] into the sublime…” (Bruce Bennett, the Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities).  The work is part of the Treasures from the National Film Archives’Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film and can be obtained through www.filmpreservation.org.Curator Patrick G.  Loughney said that Ruehr’s score “Does exactly what music for films of the silent era should do, which is sustain a film, gently lift it off the ground, and hold it in the air…” 

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