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Biography

Robert Rival - portraitRobert Rival - portrait
Photos by Michael Woolley

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How do you pronounce "Rival"? (English, French)

Selected press profiles.

Bios updated August 1, 2016: SHORTEST | SHORT | FULL


SHORTEST BIO (94 WORDS)

Robert Rival was the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Resident Composer from 2011-2014. Critics have described his work, written in a contemporary tonal style and inspired by the Canadian wilderness, literature, and classical and romantic musical forms, as "stirring and dramatic", "spectacular", "clever and evocative", "well crafted", "immediately appealing", "melodic and accessible", "memorable" and "sophisticated". His music for orchestra, chamber ensemble and voice has been performed and broadcast widely at home and abroad, including at Carnegie Hall, by leading orchestras, musicians, ensembles and choirs. Rival holds a doctorate in composition from the University of Toronto. www.robertrival.com


SHORT BIO (202 WORDS)

Robert Rival was the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Resident Composer from 2011-2014. His music, written in a contemporary tonal style and inspired by the Canadian wilderness, literature, and classical and romantic musical forms, has been described as "stirring and dramatic", "spectacular", "clever and evocative", "well crafted", "immediately appealing", "melodic and accessible", "memorable", "sophisticated"—and his song cycle, Red Moon and Other Songs of War, as "an unequivocal hit". His orchestral works, programmed regularly across Canada, include Lullaby, for the ESO's Carnegie Hall debut—lauded as an "atmospheric dream world" and "a work of quiet rapture and refined sensibility"; the muscular Achilles & Scamander; the dazzling Whirlwind; Northwest Passage Variations on the Stan Rogers tune; the Renaissance-inspired Delights & Discords for chorus and wind ensemble; and the sweeping Symphony No. 2 "Water" whose textures and rhythms were suggested by the ocean and rainforest. His diverse catalogue of chamber music is widely performed. Scholarly publications include articles on Shostakovich and Nielsen. He also writes liner and program notes for major festivals and record labels. Rival holds a doctorate in composition from the University of Toronto. He teaches at the University of Ottawa and lives with his wife Chantal-Andrée Samson, a realist oil painter, and their son. www.robertrival.com


FULL BIO

Born in Calgary in 1975, Robert Rival was the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Resident Composer from 2011-2014, a position supported in part by the Canada Council for the Arts. His music, written in a contemporary tonal style and inspired by the Canadian wilderness, literature, and classical and romantic musical forms, has been described as "stirring and dramatic", "spectacular", "clever and evocative", "well crafted", "immediately appealing", "melodic and accessible", "memorable", "sophisticated"—and his song cycle, Red Moon and Other Songs of War, as "an unequivocal hit".

Rival's orchestral works are regularly performed from coast to coast, including by the Victoria Symphony, the Edmonton Symphony, the Regina Symphony, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Hamilton Philharmonic, the National Academy Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony, Orchestre Métropolitain and Symphony Nova Scotia. Distinguished conductors have led performances of his music, notably Boris Brott, William Eddins, Josée-Luis Gomez, Bernhard Gueller, Julian Kuerti, Edwin Outwater, Martin Panteleev, and Michael Zaugg, among others.

His works have been broadcast on CBC radio and NPR and performed in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Australia, by ensembles and musicians including Nathan Berg and Denise Djokic, the Alcan Quartet, the Gryphon Trio, Musica Camerata (Montreal), Ottawa Chamber Players, Pro Coro Canada and the Talisker Chamber Players (Toronto), in venues and festivals including Carnegie Hall, the National Arts Centre (Canada), the Winspear Centre, Festival de Lanaudière, Dublin National Concert Hall, Music and Beyond (Ottawa), Bridewell Theatre (London, UK), Salle Cortot (Paris), Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, NY International Fringe Festival and Festival Vancouver.

A Canada Council for the Arts grant recipient and an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, Rival was a Featured Composer at the Windsor Canadian Music Festival in 2010. He has been commissioned by the Edmonton Symphony, CBC, CMC, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Queen's University (for Pro Coro Canada), singer-songwriter Connie Kaldor, Toronto's Talisker Players and Windermere String Quartet, the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, Trevor Pittman and Australia's Elanée Ensemble, among others.

Rival completed his doctorate in composition at the University of Toronto in 2010, winning the John Weinzweig Graduate Scholarship, an award given annually to a graduating masters or doctoral student in composition "who exhibits extraordinary creative talent". He also has an MFA in musical theatre composition (New York University, 2002) and an MMus in composition and theory (University of Ottawa, 1998). In 2004 he obtained a diploma from the European American Musical Alliance summer composition program in Paris. His major studies have been with Alexander Rapoport and Steven Gellman. He also studied privately with the late Malcolm Forsyth.

Rival's orchestral works include the muscular Achilles & Scamander, the dazzling Whirlwind, and Lullaby, performed at Carnegie Hall and lauded as an "atmospheric dream world" and "a work of quiet rapture and refined sensibility". Other orchestral works include Symphony No. 1 "Maligne Range", inspired by a hike through the Rockies; the sweeping Symphony No. 2 "Water", whose textures and rhythms were suggested by the ocean and rainforest; Northwest Passage Variations on the Stan Rogers tune; the Renaissance-inspired Delights & Discords for chorus and wind ensemble; two children's works, Maya the Bee and Yes, I Can!; a light-hearted Scherzo "Crème Brûlée" for chamber orchestra; Elegy and Spring, both for strings; and The Great Northern Diver, a symphonic poem about the common loon.

Rival's chamber music includes A Viola Sonata, Traces of a Silent Landscape for string quartet, a Piano Trio, Fantasy on a Theme of Schubert for violin and piano, a Sonata for viola and double bass, a Scherzo for nonet, and Sonata "Muskoka" for clarinet and piano. Of his String Sextet "The Tempest", excerpts from which accompany Christopher Plummer reading from Shakespeare in a high-profile show, one critic wrote that it "cast a powerful spell". His song cycle Red Moon & Other Songs of War was premiered by Melanie Conly and Peter Longworth; the chamber version by Alexander Dobson and the Talisker Players. Other works include Six Pieces for solo piano written for Michael Esch.

Besides Delights & Discords, Rival's choral music includes the acclaimed "L'Aube" and "Saison des semailles, le soir", both on poetry by Victor Hugo. His theatre works include The Overcoat, a one-act musical based on the Gogol story, staged twice in 2002, at the NY International Fringe Festival and the Bridewell Theatre.

In addition to composing, Rival is active as a music writer and scholar. A recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) doctoral award for his research on Shostakovich, the Canadian University Music Society awarded him the 2009 George Proctor Prize for best graduate student paper, which in expanded form was published in the journal twentieth-century music (Cambridge University Press). He has also published an article on harmony and voice-leading in late Nielsen in Carl Nielsen Studies. He has read papers at the Sixth Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900 and at the Shostakovich 2006: International Centenary Conference, both held in the UK, twice at Canadian University Music Society annual conferences, and was an invited speaker at Carl Nielsen: Inheritance and Legacy held in Denmark. He is currently co-editing a book-in-development on the life and work of Malcolm Forsyth for The University of Alberta Press.

Rival has written program notes for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Summer Music Festival, Ottawa Chamber Music Society, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Montreal), and the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. He has also published liner notes with the record labels Analekta and ATMA Classique; an article on Gary Kulesha in SOCAN's Words & Music; and features on Messiaen and Slavic music for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Based in Ottawa, where he teaches at the University of Ottawa, Rival lives with his wife Chantal-Andrée Samson, a realist oil painter, and their son. In his spare time he enjoys playing hockey, swimming, running and exploring nature with his family.


Skyline Trail, Maligne Range, Jasper, Alberta. August 19, 2008.

Profiles

Generations/Conversations: Robert Rival Generations/Conversations: Robert Rival
Canadian Music Centre website (March 2017)

Interview with Michael Schulman on a range of topics.
Putting the Accent on Education Dreaming of Carnegie
in the Edmonton Journal (May 3, 2012)

Feature article [PDF] on Lullaby by Elizabeth Withey.
Putting the Accent on Education Putting the Accent on Education
in SOCAN: Words & Music (spring 2012)

Feature article [PDF] by Colin Eatock about Rival's ESO residency in SOCAN's Words & Music magazine.
Composer in the House Composer in the House
in ESO: Signature Magazine (January 2012)

Feature article [PDF] by Michelle Lindstrom in the ESO's house program.
A Rival to Any Other A Rival to Any Other
in SEE Magazine (Apr 21, 2011)

Profile [PDF] by Jerry Ozipko. [SEE Magazine has since been merged with VUE Weekly.]