(Scores in alphabetical order) 

BEFORE DAWN (1988) (May Sarton)  9'30" LISTEN  LISTEN
med voice – – – timp – perc (3) – str  
[Mvt. 3 of 'The White Amaryllis:  see below] 

1st perf: Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano, National Orchestral Association (USA), Jorge Mester, cond, New York, 25 February 1989; 1st British perf: Jane Manning, soprano, BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, Grant Llewelyn, cond, 21 February 1991 (BBC Radio 3)

 [Before Dawn] is a more gently textured work, but a more emotionally powerful one. It traces the feeling of loss from numb disbelief to searing pain. The vocal setting is straightforward and melodic . . . The real power, though, is in the orchestral part, which reflects the shifting emotions with stark clarity.        Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 27 February 1989

BELLE DAME SANS MERCI, LA  (1982, rev. 1987) (John Keats) 14' 
SATB with orch. – – timp – cel – perc (2) – hp – str 
Joint winner, Rudolph Nissim Award, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, 1983 

1st USA perf: St Louis Conservatory of Music Chorus and Orchestra, Richard Holmes (cond), St Louis Conservatory of Music, St Louis, Missouri, April 1983; 1st UK perf (rev. version): Reading University Choir and Symphony Orchestra, cond. the composer, 9 March, 1991.
Score, vocal scores and parts available for rental, S&B ref HL321 

This is well-integrated, well-shaped music, sensitively tuned to the atmosphere of the poetry that inspired it.
                                          James Wierzbicki, St Louis Globe-Democrat, 2 May 1983 

CLYTEMNESTRA (1994) (after Aeschylus)  27' 
solo sop – – – bass guitar – timp – xyl – vib – mar – hp – perc (2) – st
Commissioned by the BBC

     I  The Chain of Flame  LISTEN                                                       
     II  Lament for his Absence       LISTEN  LISTEN   / LISTEN         
     III  Agamemnon’s Return -- IV The Deed   LISTEN /  LISTEN LISTEN         
     V Confession  LISTEN
     VI Defiance  LISTEN  LISTEN 
     VII Epilogue: Dirge  LISTEN 

1st perf: Della Jones (soprano), BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Tadaaki Otaka (cond), Cardiff, 12 November 1994; 1st broadcast perf: same performers, 5 February 1995 (BBC Radio 3). Now on CD, 'Clytemnestra' (BIS 2408 SACD) with Ruby Hughes (sop), BBCNOW, Jac Van Steen, conductor.

5 STAR REVIEW:  Clytemnestra [is] a powerful piece . . . Time and again on this album, usefully filled out with Mahler and Berg, predecessors audibly close to Samuel's heart, soloist and composer make Clytemnestra's wrenching drama something tangible. When Hughes sings of fire, you feel the heat. At the word, 'weeping', your heart breaks.  Geoff  Brown, The Times, 31 January, 2020                            

5 STAR REVIEW: Samuel's musical response is something of a tour de force --  at once fiercely dramatic and always coherent . . .                                  Malcom Hayes, BBC Music Magazine, March 2020

[Clytemnestra is] a powerful and persuasive monodrama . . . whose seven movements take us from the first news of Agmemnon's return . . . to the 'Epilogue: Dirge', whose sudden quiet reflectiveness is surprisingly moving. Samuel's musical language is accessible and powerful, with an appropriately craggy granitic strength to it. . . It's for Samuel's punchy work that this fine album [the BIS CD] is primarily worth seeking out.         Hugo Shirley, Gramophone, February, 2020  

In Clytemnestra (BIS), soprano Ruby Hughes, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor Jac van Steen give new life to Samuel’s powerful, seven-movement work for soprano and orchestra. . . It explores – with rare insight, passionately expressed by Hughes – the motives that led Clytemnestra to murder her husband, Agamemnon.               Fiona Maddox, The Guardian, 19 January 2020

Rhian Samuel's Clytemnestra could yet take its place alongside other British excursions into Classical Greek myth such as Tippett's King Priam and especially Britten's Phaedra, that other great female confessional monologue.      Roy Westbrook, MusicWeb International, February, 2020

This is quite an astounding and powerful work.
                                     Geoff Pearce (Sydney, Australia), Classical Music Daily, February, 2020  

Throughout, Samuel's writing is visceral, energetic, and full of striking touches. Her vocal writing is bracingly agile but never unnecessarily virtuosic: the text always speaks clearly. . . . It's a riveting piece. 

                            Jonathan Blumhofer, The Arts Fuse (Boston, USA), 26 March, 2020 

It's a powerful and exuberant work in an idiom that suggests Samuel's admiration of Berg's ripe romanticism  . . .  there is a rich and vivid imagination at work here . . . Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph,  22 February, 2020
A rich, substantial piece from a composer plainly at ease with both her material and her own voice. . . . the orchestra here in Bangor clearly relished its strong, colouristic writing and expressionist contours. In seven scenes, the vocal narrative and orchestral support alike were deftly succinct in portraying the agony, violence and grief of Aeschylus’ wronged yet ambivalent heroine. . . .  This was word-setting of the first order – and a vivid, powerful way to end a concert celebrating women whose creative endeavours would have been seen as a challenge to society itself not so very long ago.  
                         Steph Power, Wales Arts Review, 8 March, 2016    
Clytemnestra has its roots in the emotional conflict of Greek drama, whose spirit it captures in a mode of address  that is forthright and suggests the narration of epic events. . .  . A large orchestra is employed, with a widespread and busy percussion section imaginatively used . . . Despite the large instrumental forces, important words are rarely smothered by either volume or texture . . . . Samuel exhibits keen judgement of how far dynamics can be pushed without loss of impact.  In the Lament it all becomes personal, perhaps the most effective stroke in the score.                                             
                          Kenneth Loveland, Musical Opinion, Winter 1994 
. . . nothing less than a major work. . . .  There is high drama, brilliant orchestration, sustained intensity. The BBC NOW under Tadaaki Otaka produced a well-prepared account and the singing of soloist Della Jones brought this wonderful piece to vivid life.                   South Wales Echo, November 1994

DAUGHTERS' LETTERS (1996) (Anne Stevenson) 22' 
solo sop – perc (1) – str 
Commissioned by Sinfonia 21 with funds from the Arts Council of England and support from Glaxo Wellcome.   Contemporary Music Network Tour, February 1997 

     I  Marianne Chandler to her mother in New Orleans  LISTEN
     II  Kathy Chattle, to her mother, from the Good Samaritan Hospital, New York LISTEN

1st perf: Valdine Anderson (soprano), Sinfonia 21, Martyn Brabbins (cond), St John’s Smith Square, London, 3 February 1997; 1st broadcast perf: same perfromers, BBC Radio3, 3 Feb, 1997. Contemporary Network Tour, February1997.
Pub. S&B.  Score and parts available for rental, ref. HL326 

To say these poems are poignant understates their absorbing effect, and in setting them to music Samuel has achieved a masterstroke of tracing their fluctuations of tone. They are basically complementary, but within them there are subtle shifts to which the music responds tellingly, and in this performance by the soprano Patricia Rozario they came over as taut, dramatic scenes with a palpable emotional punch.
                                                           Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph, 11 February 2001 
This deftly crafted work is a dramatic scena in contrasting parts, each setting a letter by a young American woman to her mother, as imagined by Anne Stevenson in her verse collection Correspondences. The first part, though musically bright and chattery, is a picture of early-19th-century moral sternness; the second is a disguised portrait of the distressed Sylvia Plath, disconsolate tom-toms here being the dominant percussion. Austin’s players and his impassioned soloist, Patricia Rozario, brought the novel conception vividly to life. 
                                                                           Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, 3 June 2001
 . . .  Daughters’ Letters delivered [sensitive word-setting and tonal and rhythmic variety] in abundance. The flighty ingenuous nature of Marianne Chandler, in the first letter, is immediately fixed in the wayward vocal line, set against the dazzling, excitable backdrop of chattering xylophone and pizzicato strings. The second letter (also fictitious) establishes the anguish of Kathy Chattle, whose brutal honesty about the downside of motherhood has landed her in an institution.                    Barry Millington, The Times, 7 February 1997

Samuel's two quasi-recitative settings allowed the soprano more space.  The second piece especially, a song of despair from a young psychiatric patient, bulged with invention, yet never overwhelmed the poignant text.  
   Rick Jones, Evening Standard, 2 February 1997 

Billed as the highlight of the festival, this concert didn’t disappoint. At the core was a performance of Rhian Samuel’s Daughters’ Letters. . . It proved a marvellous vehicle for Patricia Rozario. . . . Samuel has an acute sense of the dramatic, to which Rozario added substance with her power and her  flair for drama. 
                                                                 Hampstead and Highgate Express, 1 June, 2001

INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY (1978) (William Wordsworth) 8' 
Solo ten, solo vln, ob, cl, hn, timp, str
Commissioned by the Missouri Music Teachers’ Association, USA, 1978 

1st USA perf: Willard Cobb, tenor, St Louis Conservatory Orchestra, Joel Revzen, cond, Branson, Missouri, 28 October 1978; 1st UK perf: Kenneth Woollam, tenor, University of Reading Symphony Orch, cond. Philip Hesketh, Reading University Great Hall, 1 December, 1993.
Pub. S&B. Score, vocal score and parts available for rental,  ref HL324 

PATH (1995) (Anne Stevenson) 7' 
med voice – str 
Commissioned by Sinfonia 21 with funds from South East Arts 

1st perf: David James, countertenor, Sinfonia 21, Martyn Brabbins, conductor, Michelham Priory, East Sussex, 26 Aug.1995. 
Pub. S&B.  Score and parts available for rental, ref.  HL327 

. . . richly felt and realised. An eloquent line for countertenor soared over the resourceful series of sound images towards a definite ‘event’, sudden hushed fragments of Lully to encapsulate the poet’s evocation of what can never be.              
                                                          Robert Maycock, The Independent, 30 August 1995

SONG FOR THE DIVINE MISS C,  (1986) (A.D. Hope et al) 15' 
sop, tenor, SATB chorus, orch. 

1st perf: Penelope Walmsley-Clark (soprano), Julian Pike (tenor), Reading University Choir and Orchestra conducted by the composer, Reading University Great Hall, 14 March 1987.  

Score and parts available for rental, S&B ref. HL329 

Samuel’s work opens with a colourful, almost cinematic, orchestral introduction and a whispered spoken chorus . . Penelope Walmsley-Clark and Julian Pike gave convincing renditions of the disturbing words, while the orchestra coped excellently with the adventurous modern sounds of the composer.  This was an excellent work, skilfully crafted and fascinatingly scored.  It deserves regular performance. . . . 
                                                                     Reading Evening Post, 18 March 1987

WHITE AMARYLLIS, THE  (1991) (May Sarton) 23' 
med voice – – – timp – perc (3) – str 

     I. Celebration LISTEN 
     II. The Snow Light   LISTEN  
     III. Before Dawn  LISTEN LISTEN

1st perf, complete cycle: Jane Manning, soprano, BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Mogrelia, cond, 17 August 1992 (BBC Radio 3).
Pub. S&B. Score, vocal score and parts available for rental, ref HL325