Rhian has written for all kinds of ensembles and solo instruments/voices. Many of her orchestral works have been premiered by BBCNOW; others have been performed by the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia 21, the Brunel Ensemble, the BT Scottish Ensemble, Sinfonia Adesso and more. Orchestral conductors with whom she has worked include Tadaaki Otaka, Richard Hickox, Martyn Brabbins, Tecwyn Evans, Owain Arwel Hughes, Grant Llewelyn, Cayenna Ponchione, George Vass and Leonard Slatkin, while some of the many solo instrumentalists who have premiered her pieces include pianists Martin Roscoe, Russell Hirshfield, Chenyin Li and Jennifer Lee, harpists Skaila Kanga and Elinor Bennett, Joji Hattori (violin), Su Zhen (viola), Gemma Rosefield (cello), Dan Goble (saxophone), Pamela Thorby (recorder) and John Wallace (trumpet).
|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)
(RS is in the back row, just to the right of the conductor's hand.)
In recent years 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. Her works have been sung by many other choirs, including 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 North 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 (witness her doctoral dissertation on 16th-century musica ficta) 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 a number of women poets in creating her vocal music, wishing to develop further the notion of a ‘woman’s voice’. She set a number of the poems of American May Sarton with the poet’s express encouragement, using them, for example, for the orchestral/piano song cycle, The White Amaryllis, the orchestral version premiered by Jane Manning and BBCNOW, the piano version by Sharon Mabry and Patsy Wade. More recently she has worked extensively with the poetry of Anglo-American Anne Stevenson for compositions such as Daughters’ Letters, toured throughout Britain by Sinfonia 21 (with soloist Valdine Anderson) and later The Brunel Ensemble and Clio Gould's BT Scottish Ensemble (with soloist Patricia Rozario).
|RS with Anne Stevenson, poet|
As a writer on music 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. Though some of her musical methods may seem quite different from Birtwistle’s, she admires his unique approach and integrity of voice.
Rhian is also a teacher: in the United States she 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 was Professor of Music from 1998, and is now Emeritus Professor) and Oxford University. At City University she supervised doctoral students in composition, musicology (Music and Gender, particularly related to women composers) and Performance Studies, the latter for a joint degree (DMA) with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. At Oxford 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: