“startling with refreshingly tart,
spiny, intense, colourful,
busy yet transparent textures”
REBECCA TAVENER | Choir & Organ
Hugh Collins Rice’s compositions combine a lyrical character with a technique influenced by medieval and renaissance music. Described as “a completely new approach” [PIZZICATO], his writing is “deeply expressive, while his idea of pre-counterpoint counterpoint taps something deeply, naturally human.” [GRAMOPHONE].
He has won a number of significant composition prizes, including at the 2019 Serocki International Composers' Competition for the trio 'Canto Celato', the Composers’ Guild/MCPS Prize for 'Robin’s Lament' in 1995, and the 1989 PA Composition Award for the orchestral piece 'Before the End'. In association with the William Walton Trust, he was invited to the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples to write his string quartet, 'I Fiori'. His music has been performed in all parts of the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Italy, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and other European radio stations. Performers have included the Britten Sinfonia, Hilliard Ensemble, Swingle Singers, Coull Quartet, Jane's Minstrels, Hashtag Ensemble and the London Schubert Players. His major collaboration with the medieval ensemble Mediva, 'Sequentiae Hildegardenses', was released on the Odradek label in 2016 to critical acclaim and was nominated for an International Classical Music Award. It was praised as “startling with refreshingly tart, spiny, intense, colourful, challenging, demanding, busy yet transparent textures.” [CHOIR & ORGAN].
His works often use unusual combinations of instruments including a medieval instrumental ensemble ('Sequentiae Hildergardenses') and Tuba quartet ('Earth and Moon; Sacred geometry for Tubas'). Texts set include the poets Christina Rossetti ('In the Grave, whither thou goest') and Geoffrey Hill ('The Pentecost Castle'); St Mark's Gospel ('And they went to a place'); and Medieval graffiti ('Ashwell Fragments'). Many pieces make either direct or oblique references to the work of earlier composers: 'A Melancholy Pavan' (William Byrd), 'Laudes Christo' (Jacob Obrecht), 'Variations en Rondeau' (Machaut), 'And they went to a place' (Bach), 'Sequentiae Hildergardenses' (Hildegard of Bingen). His chamber version of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto op.42 has been performed in Vienna, London and Italy and is now published by Schirmer/Belmont.
He was born in Oxford and read music at the Universities of Oxford and Sussex, studying composition with Jonathan Harvey and Robert Saxton. He is currently a lecturer at both Oriel College and Trinity College, Oxford, having taught undergraduates at Oxford University for a number of years. He delivered a masterclass series on the analysis of 20th century piano music at the Accademia Musicale Pescarese in 2010.