Drink the Wild Ayre is my second string quartet. I wrote my first over twenty years ago, while poring over recordings by the Emerson String Quartet. At that time, I was new to composition and bought every CD of theirs I could find, obsessively studying counterpoint and voice-leading via their recordings. Their performances became my benchmark for the masterpieces they recorded; their sounds became synonymous, in my mind, with the composer’s intent. For me, theirs was the definitive interpretation of all the great string quartets in history.
So, when the invitation to write this piece came in — the Emerson’s final commission, to be performed during this, their final season — I nearly fell off my chair. I am still awestruck and humbled to have written this piece for some of my earliest heroes.
The title is a playful nod to one of the most famous quotes by their transcendentalist namesake essayist/philosopher/poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, Drink the wild air's salubrity.” An ayre is a song-like, lyrical piece. The title seemed an apt reference not only to the lilting, asymmetrical rhythms of the music’s melodic narrative, but also to the questing spirit, sense of adventure, and full-hearted passion with which the Emerson has thrown itself into everything it has done for the past 47 years. Here’s to the singular magic of these artistic giants, and the new adventures that await them.
The Boston Globe
"Snider is a contemporary American composer widely performed in the United States and abroad. The title of her quartet is a modified quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the quartet’s namesake — “Drink the wild air’s salubrity.” The music nods overtly to nature with its twitters and echoes, though its progress is asymmetrical and often agitated. The Emerson String Quartet gave this new composition an elegant and committed performance."
The Threepenny Review
“…the Emerson's program was beautifully structured and satisfyingly complete, with Ravel’s lovely quartet to start with, Webern’s Bagatelles as a palate cleanser, Bartok’s No. 2 to end the first act, and a New York premiere [of 'Drink the Wild Ayre'] by Sarah Kirkland Snider just before the performance of Shostakovich’s Twelfth… Snider is a worthy inheritor of the Shostakovich tradition.”
The Town Topids
"From its opening measures played by Emerson first violinist Eugene Drucker, Snider’s work was an appealing piece with driving rhythms propelling thematic material forward. Violinists Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins were often playing in similar registers, creating an unusually well-blended instrumental palette. Drucker and Setzer frequently paralleled each other in melodic material, while Watkins provided a rich cello line, especially in the upper register of the instrument."