I received a commission from the New York Youth Symphony in 1992 when I was 29 years old. Written as one movement string quartet, it eventually became the first movement of my first quartet. This commission meant the world to me, I had just landed a job teaching at MIT (where I still am so many years later!) and it was important for me to build my resume. But mostly, writing for string quartet became a great love of mine, because the experience NYYS was wonderful. The performers were fantastic, and there was a full house at the premiere. I also learned a great deal about string writing from my work with the performers, and the recording helped me garner commissions for the Shanghai (my second quartet), Borromeo (my third quartet), and Cypress String Quartets (my fourth, fifth and sixth quartet). And these commissions led to one of my most important artistic relationships: a long standing mutual respect and admiration between myself and the Cypress String Quartet. That collaboration has led to a recording “How She Danced: String Quartets of Elena Ruehr” and the Cypress has played my music on many concerts around the world. I also wrote two scores for silent film that included string quartet. All of these quartets have led to my working with some of the best musicians on the planet, including both the Biava and the Lark Quartet (with Baritone Stephen Salters)—there are too many to name. And there is more to come—I have upcoming recordings of my Second, Fifth and Sixth Quartets, and new pieces on my desk right now for the Borremeo Quartet (with pianist Donald Berman) and the Arneis Quartet (with Baritone David Kravitz). What started as a small commission from the New York Youth Symphony has led to a lifetime of work. I will always be very grateful for that early commission.
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