The title of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's superb disc of music by Elena Ruehr is 'O'Keeffe Images', which refers to her triptych of works inspired by paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. They are wondrous pieces, abounding in sonorous awe, grandeur and imagination, as befits the images that stimulated the American composer. A similar sense of urgent brilliance pervades the three Ruehr works preceding the O'Keeffe collection.
The disc's repertoire spans more than two decades of Ruehr's career, from her student days at the Julliard School and the University of Michigan to more recent activities (she has served on the faculty at MIT for most of this period). These works reveal a composer who savours the large musical canvas and applies all manner of colourful melodic and harmonic dabs to create captivating soundscapes.
O'Keeffe Images comprises 'Summer Days' (2013), 'Sky Above Clouds' (1993) and 'Ladder to the Moon' (2003), which, played in that order, show how consistent Ruehr has been in developing a style in which energy, thematic generosity and textural luxuriance meld organically. The string orchestra in Shimmer (1995) does exactly that and more, using constant rhythmic motion and varied dynamics and motifs to evoke a luminous aura. Vocalissimus, inspired by Wallace Stevens's poem 'To the Roaring Wind', soars on fanfare-like wings, while Cloud Atlas (evoking elements in David Mitchell's eponymous novel) sends a solo cello into rapturous orbit along with harp and strings.
Gil Rose conducts the BMOP in richly detailed and vivid performances. In Cloud Atlas, cellist Jennifer Kloetzel gives eloquent voice to the solo part.