Robert Rival's music for orchestra, chamber ensemble and voice has been performed widely in Canada and abroad, including at Carnegie Hall, by leading orchestras, musicians, ensembles and choirs. Critics have described his work, written in a contemporary extended 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". Former Resident Composer of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Rival holds a doctorate from the University of Toronto and teaches at the University of Ottawa. robertrival.com
SHORT BIO (200 WORDS)
Robert Rival's music for orchestra, chamber ensemble and voice has been performed widely in Canada and abroad, including at Carnegie Hall, by leading orchestras, musicians, ensembles and choirs. Critics have described his work, written in a contemporary extended 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 orchestral works include Lullaby, lauded as an "atmospheric dream world" (Birmingham News) and "a work of quiet rapture and refined sensibility" (American Record Guide) whose "gentle textures and flowing themes occasionally yield surprising harmonic turns and briskly changing metres" (New York Times); the muscular Achilles & Scamander; dazzling Whirlwind; Northwest Passage Variations on the Stan Rogers tune; the Renaissance-inspired Delights & Discords for chorus and wind ensemble; a riveting Violin Concerto; and the sweeping Symphony No. 2 "Water". Recent chamber music includes Nature Rhythms I, commissioned by the Gryphon Trio. Former Resident Composer of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Rival holds a doctorate from the University of Toronto, teaches at the University of Ottawa and lives with his wife, Chantal-Andrée Samson, a realist oil painter, and their son. robertrival.com
Born in 1975, son of Ivan Rival, the late mathematician, Robert Rival grew up in Ottawa. He 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 extended tonal style and inspired by the Canadian wilderness, literature, and classical and romantic musical forms, has been described by critics as "subtle and poignant" (What's On in London), "engaging" (Globe and Mail), "spectaculaire" (Le Devoir), "positive, upfront writing" (Montreal Gazette), "clever and evocative" (Ottawa Citizen), "rhythmically rich" (Edmonton Journal), "sophisticated" (Ottawa Citizen), "immediately appealing" (Ottawa Citizen), "brisk and bounding" (Toronto Star), "well crafted" (Ottawa Citizen)—and the 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, Edmonton Symphony, Regina Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Hamilton Philharmonic, National Academy Orchestra, Sinfonia Toronto, Windsor Symphony, Ottawa Symphony, Orchestre Métropolitain, Orchestre classique de Montréal 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, Jean-Philippe Tremblay, Nurhan Arman, Erick Lichte and Michael Zaugg, among others.
His works have been broadcast on CBC radio and NPR and performed in Canada, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Finland, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Australia, by ensembles and musicians including Nathan Berg, Denise Djokic, David Jalbert, the Alcan Quartet, the Gryphon Trio, Marc Djokic, Musica Camerata (Montreal), Ottawa Chamber Players, Pro Coro Canada, Chor Leoni and the Talisker Chamber Players (Toronto), in venues and festivals including Carnegie Hall, the National Arts Centre (Canada), the Winspear Centre, Festival de Lanaudière, Scotia Festival of Music, Sibelius Academy (Finland), 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.
Rival has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Edmonton Arts Council and Queen's University. He is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre and was a Featured Composer at the Windsor Canadian Music Festival in 2010. He has been commissioned by the Edmonton Symphony, CBC, the Gryphon Trio, CMC, Pro Coro Canada, Vancouver's Chor Leoni, Denise Djokic and David Jalbert for Scotia Festival of Music, Marc Djokic, Sinfonia Toronto, Orchestre classique de Montréal, Thirteen Strings (Ottawa), the Edmonton Recital Society, singer-songwriter Connie Kaldor, Toronto's Talisker Players and Windermere String Quartet, the Ottawa Youth Orchestra and Australia's Elanée Ensemble, among others. His compositions appear on three CDs.
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. Other honours include being named finalist in Chor Leoni's C/4 Canadian Choral Composition Competition (2020) and winning the Russian-based Leopold Auer International Composers Competition for his Schubert Fantasy (2018).
Rival's orchestral works include the muscular Achilles & Scamander and the dazzling Whirlwind. Lullaby, performed at Carnegie Hall, was lauded as an "atmospheric dream world" (Birmingham News) and "a work of quiet rapture and refined sensibility" (American Record Guide) whose "gentle textures and flowing themes occasionally yield surprising harmonic turns and briskly changing metres" (New York Times). Other orchestral works include a riveting Violin Concerto "Under the Shadow of the Cypresses"; 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 Nature Rhythms I for piano trio, Sunshine Variations for cello and piano, a Cello Sonata, 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 accompanied Christopher Plummer reading from Shakespeare in a high-profile show, one critic wrote that it "cast a powerful spell" (Ottawa Citizen). His song cycle Red Moon & Other Songs of War was premiered by Melanie Conly and the late Peter Longworth; the chamber version, by Alexander Dobson and the Talisker Players. Solo works include Six Pieces for solo piano written for Michael Esch and Ten Miniatures for the Estonian kantele player, Hedi Viisma.
Besides Delights & Discords, Rival's choral music includes the acclaimed "L'Aube" and "Saison des semailles, le soir", both on poetry by Victor Hugo, "Again…Riding" on poems by Marjorie Pickthall, and "The Midnight Sea" for men's choir. 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, currently at work on a book on music, gesture and rhetoric. 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 (Denmark) and a keynote speaker at Malcolm Forsyth: Perspectives and Legacy Symposium (University of Calgary, 2019). He is co-editor of a book on the life and work of Forsyth, published by the University of Alberta Press (2019), and for which he contributed a chapter on the Cello Concerto. In the same year, he published an article on Forsyth's Double Concerto in the journal Intersections.
Rival has written program notes for over 700 works for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Summer Music, 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 for over a dozen CDs 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, he teaches composition and theory at the University of Ottawa, where he is the coordinator of the composition sector, and lives with his wife, Chantal-Andrée Samson, a realist oil painter, and their son. In his spare time he enjoys playing hockey, swimming, reading the classics, and exploring nature with his family.
Skyline Trail, Maligne Range, Jasper, Alberta. August 19, 2008.
Generations/Conversations: Robert Rival Canadian Music Centre website (March 2017)
Interview with Michael Schulman on a range of topics.
Dreaming of Carnegie in the Edmonton Journal (May 3, 2012)