Ruby Hughes on Rhian Samuel’s Clytemnestra

Friday, January 17, 2020

The English soprano on a work of which she’s become a modern champion

Rhian Samuel’s work for soprano and orchestra, Clytemnestra, was commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales who gave the first performance, under Tadaaki Otaka, and with Della Jones as soloist, in November 1994. Reviewing the performance in Musical Opinion, Keith Loveland wrote that ‘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 … The work impresses by its informing practicality. 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.’

Twenty five years later, the work has been recorded by the soprano Ruby Hughes with the same Welsh orchestra, this time conducted by Jac van Steen. Coupled with orchestral songs by Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg, Clytemnestra has just been released by BIS. James Jolly caught up with Ruby to talk about a project that’s very close to her heart.

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Photo: Barry Hale

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