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Rhian Samuel (b.1944)
Rhian Samuel was born in Aberdare in 1944 and was educated in Britain and the United States. Her orchestral works span from Elegy-Symphony (St Louis Symphony Orchestra, conductor Leonard Slatkin, 1981) and La belle dame sans merci for chorus and orchestra (co-winner of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ Rudolph Nissim Award, 1983) to Dawnsiau’r Nant (Dances of the Stream) for the Welsh Proms, Cardiff, 1999, Tirluniau (Landscapes) for the BBC Proms, London, 2000 (BBC National Orchestra of Wales), and Lights in the City, written for her students at City University and premiered in 2010. Much of her vocal music is concerned with women ‘speaking for themselves’; it ranges from Clytemnestra for soprano and orchestra, premiered by Della Jones and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in 1994, to Cerddi Hynafol, settings of early Welsh women’s poetry, for the Fishguard Festival, 2001. She has collaborated extensively with the Anglo-American poet Anne Stevenson in works such as Daughters’ Letters, premiered in 1997 by Valdine Anderson with Sinfonia 21, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, and Nantcol Songs, 2003, for Gillian Keith, soprano, and Simon Lepper, piano, a work about Snowdonian landscapes. In March 2006 The Flowing Sand, a song-cycle to poems by Samuel Beckett, was premiered at the Beckett/Proust/Deleuze conference held at the School of European Studies, Cardiff.
In April 2011 Pamela Thorby, recorder, with the Welsh Sinfonia, conductor Mark Eager, gave the world premiere of The Path through the Woods at Cardiff’s Temple of Peace, and in August of that year Jennifer Lee premiered the Mechanical and Fantastical Studies for solo piano in Ciboure, France, as part of the ‘Les Raveliades’ festival. For the Choir of New College Oxford Samuel composed What Cheer? , a setting of an anonymous 16thcentury carol, first performed in December 2011, and in May 2012 James Gilchrist, tenor, and William Vann, piano, gave the premiere of Summer Songs, settings of Denise Levertov and Zulfikar Ghose, at the London English Song Festival. In the same month, the Mavron Quartet gave the premiere of Threaded Light, commissioned in celebration of the ensemble’s 10th anniversary with a ‘Women Make Music’ award from the PRS for Music Foundation. In 2013 the Arcomis Brass Quintet performed the newly commissioned Brass Tacks at venues throughout south Wales, including Abergavenny Castle and the Wales Millennium Centre. In 2014 Love Bade Me Welcome was published in Stainer & Bell’s Choral Now series. Samuel’s song-set A Swift Radiant Morning, to texts by the First World War poet Charles Hamilton Sorley, was premiered at the 2015 Three Choirs Festival, Hereford, by Roderick Williams, baritone, and Susie Allan, piano. Rhian Samuel has taught at the St Louis Conservatory of Music, USA, and Reading University, and since 2010 has been Emeritus Professor of Music at City University, London. She is also a tutor in composition at Magdalen College, Oxford. Rhian Samuel co-edited the Norton/New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers (1994). A CD of her music, Light and Water, is available on the Deux-Elles label.
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