Signum’s first disc with Rodrigo Ruiz highlights the Mexican composer’s musical and literary passions, in performances by world-class soloists Kerenza Peacock, Huw Watkins and Laura van der Heijden.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Ruiz has attracted commissions from a number of leading artists, with both the opening Violin Sonata and ‘A Riveder Le Stelle’ commissioned by Kerenza Peacock for this recording. The second work is a duo for violin and piano that is accompanied by poetic quotations from Canto XXXIV of Dante’s ‘Inferno’.
The booklet notes include an interview with the composer by Jessica Duchen, who describes how the programme “clearly shows Rodrigo´s roots in the traditions of Beethoven and Brahms, but with individual twists that clearly indicate we are in fact on new territory”.
Born in England in 1997 as the youngest daughter of a Dutch father and a Swiss mother, Laura van der Heijden’s first public performance as a cellist was at the age of nine with the Jupiter Chamber Orchestra. From 2005 to 2014 Laura was a student at the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and since 2008 has been studying with the renowned British-Russian cellist Leonid Gorokhov. In October 2016 Laura began her Bachelor’s Degree in Music at St John’s College, Cambridge, while continuing to perform during her term breaks.
Laura has already made a name for herself as a very special emerging talent, captivating audiences and critics alike with her insightful and faithful interpretations. Having won many prizes and awards from an early age, her breakthrough came in 2012 as the overall winner of the BBC Young Musician Competition, with a “mesmerising” performance of Walton’s Cello Concerto with Kirill Karabits and the Northern Sinfonia at The Sage, Gateshead. She was soon invited to appear with many leading UK orchestras, such as the Philharmonia, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, European Union Chamber and English Chamber orchestras. In September 2014 Laura was awarded the Landgraf von Hessen Prize at the Kronberg Academy’s prestigious international masterclasses. In 2015, the London Mozart Players named her their first ever Young Artist in Residence. A year later she was chosen by the Orpheum Stiftung in Switzerland, a foundation encouraging and assisting exceptionally talented young instrumental soloists. Under this umbrella she appeared in recital with Fazil Say at Zürich Tonhalle in September 2016.
In the past few years, Laura has given her debuts in Holland, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the opening concert of the inaugural BBC Proms Australia, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Laura participated in the 2017 “Cello Unwrapped” series of concerts at Kings Place London, performing the Schumann cello concerto with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
Rodrigo Ruiz was raised in Tijuana, Mexico, where he enjoyed playing with his friends, as all children do, but also loved music and literature. Although barely able to reach the keyboard, he was drawn to a small Steinway spinet that his great-grandfather had gifted his mother for her twelfth birthday. While studying piano under Zarema Tchibirova, and only fifteen at the time, he wrote his first piano sonata, which later received the Outstanding Composition Prize (2008) by the state of Baja California.
Even if many of his early compositions were naturally works for solo piano, his creative efforts also extend into the realm of art song and chamber music. One of his most recent compositions, Venus & Adonis, a song cycle written for Grace Davidson after Shakespeare’s homonymous poem, was sparked by their collaboration in An Everlasting Dawn, Rodrigo’s first album, released independently in 2017 after a successful crowdfunding campaign, which also featured Christopher Glynn and Alison Farr.
An avid reader of classics, he is currently preparing his own Italian translation of Shakespeare’s King Lear which will be the basis for a new opera libretto, early sketches of which already populate his sketchbook next to drafts for a string quartet.
After earning his Bachelor of Music cum laude from Lawrence University, Rodrigo was offered a scholarship at University of Michigan’s orchestral conducting program where he completed his Master in 2014. During this time he was assistant conductor in the recording of Milhaud’s L’Orestie d’Eschyle for Naxos Records, a project that was nominated for the 2015 Grammy Awards for Best Opera Recording.
Rodrigo is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, investigating novel ways to fuse music and myth through opera, oratorio, masses, programmatic music, and other genre-defying works, such as Tattvas, a five-work project ‘for orchestra and elemental nature’, as he likes to call it, which crowds his piano and writing desk; in it, each of the five elements of the ancient world—earth, water, fire, air and ether—are portrayed through an orchestra, ethnic instruments, and pre-recorded sounds and effects.
In his spare time Rodrigo takes joy in hiking the outdoors, reading, and cooking for family and friends.