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Alan Bush Composition Prize 2010
Posted: 26 July 2010

Samuel Bordoli
Samuel Bordoli
The Alan Bush Composition Prize, 2010 was again held in the Royal Academy of Music. The Adjudicator was Anthony Powers and he awarded the Prize to Samuel Bordoli for his piece Prisms. Joseph Davies was very Highly Commended for his piece, Hababanera, for Double bass and Piano. There were seven entrants in total.

In his adjudicator's report, Anthony Powers stated that all the pieces submitted for the Alan Bush Composition Prize 'had qualities of skill and imagination, but two stood out. Joseph Davies' Hababanera is a witty and imaginative piece of real character, and a useful contribution to a still limited repertoire. The winner of the 2010 prize is Prisms by Samuel Bordoli. This is a lively, dramatic piece, scored for the much favoured 'Pierrot Lunaire' ensemble. The music is well focussed on its ideas but with considerable variety of texture and colour; the score shows ample evidence of an acute ear for harmony and sonority, together with a fine instinctive judgment of timing and gesture.'

Samuel Bordoli writes of his work, Prisms, as being 'inspired by an object of the same name, that is to say, a transparent, flat element, whether it be glass, plastic or even water, that has the ability to refract light. In the first section of the piece the clarinet acts as our beam of light, transmitting a single pulsating tone, in turn picked up the piano, which now takes on the role of the prism. This is spewed out now in a single burst of energy along the line of players (flute, violin and cello), each new wave fluttering, dancing and scurrying along on its own, eventually seeming to wind its way into the ether. The rest of the piece takes a different course, each instrument featuring either as soloist or part of a duet, usually over very quiet and delicate textures created by the rest of the ensemble. Each of the four clarinet tones at the beginning (Ab,G,Eb,D) has a different chord built upon it. These tones were selected because of the clarinet's wonderful ability to make the notes of the harmonic series clearly audible above them when sustained. The pattern of tones and the four chords form the basis material for the entire piece.'

Samuel Bordoli - Biography. Born in 1987, British composer and conductor, Samuel Bordoli began to play the piano at the age of eight and started to compose almost immediately after that. Samuel holds a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music where he studies with Philip Cashian. He previously studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire with Edwin Roxburgh and Philip Martin and also with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies at Dartington International Summer School. Some of Samuel's recent commissions have come from the Royal Academy of Music, the cellist, Lionel Handy, the leader of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Birmingham Conservatoire. He has also recently composed music for several different groups such as the violin/piano duo Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea, The New Century Players and many soloists. In May 2008, Samuel's piece Eta Carinae Nebula was featured by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group as part of the 'Boulez in Birmingham' Festival. Samuel is the co-founder of the new music group, The Swift Ensemble, for which he has composed music. Among his recent engagements as a conductor, he has performed contemporary music performances at the Academy. He has also conducted the Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, and a performance with the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber in a concert at the Birmingham Town Hall. Some recent premieres include a piece for the Academy, Symphonic Brass Fanfares and Chorales, a music-theatre work entitled Folksongs, a violin and piano duet, Aurora Borealis, a two minute opera in London written for The Warehouse Ensemble and Prelude and Fugue for the Orchestra of the Swan. Samuel is currently composing an opera, working with a choreographer in creating a new dance work, and writing a piece for the London Sinfonietta.

Joseph Davies - Biography. He started composing at the age of eleven in Cardiff where he grew up. He had piano and cello lessons and wrote music for school plays. He subsequently studied composition with Robert Saxton and Thomas Hyde at Oxford, where he graduated in 2009 with First Class Honours and was awarded a Gibbs Prize for outstanding academic achievement. Joseph is keenly aware of the theatrical rituals of live performance, indicative of an affinity with the music of Birtwistle and late Stravinsky and also the worlds of theatre and dance. He has an interest in Indian music. The exploratory sound worlds of Ligeti and Varese are another important influence, as are certain Jazz and rock artists such as Miles Davis and Captain Beefheart. Commissions have included works for the Allegri Quartet, the Oxford Philomusica, the Esbjerg Ensemble, the New Chamber Opera and the celebrated mezzo-soprano, Kathryn Whitney, with performances in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, the Royal Festival Hall and elsewhere. He has received numerous awards and is gratefully supported in his studies at the Academy by a Prince of Wales Advanced Study Award in Music, from the Arts Council of Wales, the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the Ismena Holland Award and an Academy scholarship. He is in the first year of a two year MMus course and studies with Gary Carpenter.

The Adjudicator, Anthony Powers, born in London in 1953, is an established British composer. He studied in Oxford, in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and at York with David Blake and Bernard Rands. He taught for two years at Dartington College of Arts before being appointed Composer-in-Residence to Southern Arts. He now divides his time between composing and teaching at Cardiff University, where he has been Professor of Composition since 2004. His music has been widely performed in the UK and overseas. His important works include the orchestral pieces Stone, Water, Stars (1987) and Terrain (1993), both BBC commissions. His chamber music is frequently performed and broadcast by Britain's top ensembles, including the Schubert Ensemble, who recently premiered a new work for piano quartet, Nightsongs in February 2008. Power's music is characterized by a strong architectural framework that supports a language of poetic intensity and magical sonorities. His music often takes its inspiration from the tension between different states, be they physical properties, landscapes, seasons or emotions.

The Alan Bush Composition Prize 2010 has been awarded to two very promising young composers. We wish them every success in the future.