RUEHR 'Icarus' and other chamber music

Record and Artist Details



Label: Avie

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 59



Catalogue Number: AV2502

AV2502. RUEHR 'Icarus' and other chamber music


Composition Artist Credit
String Quartet No 7 'A Thousand Cranes' Elena Ruehr, Composer
Delgani String Quatet
Icarus for Clarinet and String Quartet Elena Ruehr, Composer
Delgani String Quatet
Jon Manasse, Clarinet
The Worlds Revolve for Piano and String Quartet Elena Ruehr, Composer
Areis Quartet
Borromeo String Quartet
Delgani String Quatet
Donald Berman, Piano
Insect Dances - Suite for String Quartet No 8 Elena Ruehr, Composer
Areis Quartet

I was mightily impressed with Elena Ruehr’s first six quartets (5/18), choosing that Avie set as my Critics’ Choice for 2018, and am pleased to report that the Seventh, A Thousand Cranes (2019), carries on from where its predecessors left off. As before, Ruehr (b1963) adopts a different approach and structure for each work, with the Seventh cast in one large span (as was No 2) but consisting of mini-movements played without pause. The inspiration lies in the reminiscences of children displaced by war, the work’s emotional trajectory running from innocence (sounding not unlike Tippett), through loss, to a sadder, wiser state at the close. The Eighth (2020) could scarcely be of greater contrast, reflected in its tripartite title: Insect Dances: Suite for String Quartet No 8. The suite, ‘for listeners of all ages’, describes the antics of six hexapodae at a party, each with their own dance: a swinging spider, a flitting dragonfly, an uninvited, stomping wasp, a boogieing bumblebee and a waltzing ladybug, concluding with a grasshopper polka.

Icarus (2018) is a tone poem inspired by the famous Greek legend of the hero’s ill-fated flight too close to the sun. A multilayered work expressively, it focuses primarily on the euphoria of building the wings and initial flight, but with an elegiac undertow pointing to the tragic denouement. The Worlds Revolve for piano and strings (2016) takes its cue from the final lines of Eliot’s fourth Prelude: ‘The worlds revolve like ancient women / Gathering fuel in vacant lots.’ Each of the four movements takes a phrase from this quotation to spin beguiling and varied musical fantasies.

One could not ask for a more committed roster of performers. The Worlds Revolve and Icarus were commissioned for the Borromeo Quartet to perform with Donald Berman and John Manasse respectively, whose exemplary performances are captured here in fine sound. Insect Dances was written for the Arneis Quartet, whose vivacious rendition concludes the disc. They were co-commissioners, with the Quartet Nouveau and Delgani Quartet, of the Seventh; the Delgani are the captivating executants here. Once again, Mark Wilsher has remastered the recordings, made on four occasions in 2019 and 2021, with consummate skill. Recommended.

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