Rhian has written for all kinds of ensembles as well as for solo instruments/voices. Many of her orchestral works have been premiered by BBCNOW; others have been performed by, amongst others, the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia 21, the Brunel Ensemble, the BT Scottish Ensemble and Sinfonia Adesso. Orchestral conductors with whom she has worked include Leonard Slatkin, Tadaaki Otaka, Richard Hickox, and Martyn Brabbins. Vocal music is also an important part of Rhian's output; she has written works for many renowned solo singers and accompanists.
|Pamela Thorby (recorder), RS and Mark |
Eager (conductor of the Welsh Sinfonia)
enjoying a rehearsal of The Path through
the Woods, April, 2011
RS at Western Connecticut State University, April 2015,
with performers Russell Hirshfield (piano), Hannah
Levinson (viola), Richard Weidlich (baritone), Dan
Goble (saxophone) and Patty Goble (soprano)
Throughout her career she has sung in and conducted choirs and written music for them, including those she has conducted herself at Reading University and City University London UK. (Many years ago, as a student, she even sang in the White House for President Johnson, in the Washington University Madrigal Singers!
She has written a number of works for Edward Higginbottom and the New College (Oxford) choir; the choir under its new director, Robert Quinney, recorded 'Love bade me welcome' for a CD released in May, 2017. Other choirs that have sung her music include those of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, Kings College London, Ithaca College NY, Austin Peay University TN, the Worshipful Company of Singers and Queen's College Oxford.
In writing music, Rhian keeps the performer and performance uppermost in her mind. She believes that the performer contributes creatively to the work and that the composer should always offer him/her the space to make this contribution, a particular challenge in notated music. She acknowledges many other influences on her music, particularly those of her rich Welsh literary and musical heritage, the landscape of her present home in mid-Wales overlooking the Dyfi estuary and Cardigan Bay and her long sojourn in the USA. She is interested in all facets of classical music, particularly early music, and American music of all kinds; in her youth she played the oboe in orchestras and the viol and wind instruments in early music groups. She identifies with her female colleagues in a profession still dominated by males, seeing her position, somewhat outside the male tradition, as an exciting one with many challenges and opportunities, not one, as in former times for many women composers, that must be denied.
Rhian has collaborated with several women poets in creating her vocal music. She set a number of the poems of American May Sarton with the poet’s express encouragement, has worked extensively with the poetry of Anglo-American Anne Stevenson and has also set Welsh texts by Nesta Wyn Jones.
|RS with Anne Stevenson, poet|
She co-edited with Julie Anne Sadie and contributed to The New Grove/Norton Dictionary of Women Composers (1994). Her much-quoted preface to this dictionary discusses the situation of women composers over the past 100+ years. She has also written on several of the operas of Harrison Birtwistle, including Gawain, The Minotaur and The Second Mrs Kong, publishing for the two former works both the programme notes for the ROH and diaries of their first productions for the Cambridge Opera Journal.
In the United States Rhian taught at Washington University St Louis (where she completed a doctorate on 16th-century musica ficta) and the St Louis Conservatory of Music; in Britain at Reading University, City University London (where she is now Emeritus Professor) and Oxford University where she was a member of the Music Faculty and tutored composition undergraduates at Magdalen College.
Most of Rhian Samuel's music is published by Stainer & Bell Ltd: