John Adams (b. 1947, USA)
Born and raised in New England, Adams learned the clarinet from his father and began composing at the age of ten. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Over the past 25 years, Adams’s music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings.
John Adams at this year's Festival:
Andrés Alén (b. 1950, Cuba)
Whilst Andrés Alén’s musical career was established as a distinguished pianist he has received increasing recognition as a composer since the 1980s, merging European classic traditions with popular Cuban music.
Andrés Alén at this year's Festival:
Ian Clarke (b. 1964, Broadstairs)
Ian is acknowledged as one of the leading player/composers in the flute work. His compositions are performed across the globe and the wide-ranging works have established themselves as some of the most exciting flute repertoire of today.
Ian Clarke at this year's Festival:
Thierry Escaich (b. 1965, France)
Composer, organist and improviser Thierry Escaich is one of the most important French composers of his generations. Following in the tradition of Ravel, Messiaen and Dutilleux his scores are imbued with references from contemporary folk and spiritual music and distinguished by obsessive rhythmic drive.
Thierry Escaich at this year's Festival:
Philip Glass has been one of the dominant, boundary-crossing influences of the past half century. With its engrossing rhythm and majestic sweep Glass’s music is as beautiful as it is engaging, and much of its fascination lies in its ability to make the listener experience time and space through different modes of perception.
Philip Glass at this year's Festival:
Matthew Hindson (b. 1968, Australia)
Matthew Hindson is an extraordinarily diverse composer, drawing on a wide range of influences, incorporating classical and more experimental electronic influences within his music, leading to an innovative style of classical music with a unique mix of both subtlety and sudden exuberance.
Matthew Hindson at this year's Festival:
Matthew Jones (b. 1974, Swansea)
Matthew is widely acknowledged as one of the leading violists of his generation. He is also a composer, mathematics graduate and teacher of the Alexander Technique and Kundalini Yoga.
Matthew Jones at this year's Festival:
David Lang (b. 1957, USA)
Pullitzer prize-winner David Lang is one of America’s most performed composers and one of the most musically eclectic. He says of his music, “I want to give listeners the chance to pay attention to their own emotional lives. A lot of what I do doesn’t compel listeners to feel a certain way, but I try to get listeners to a space in which they have permission to feel whatever seems appropriate to them at the moment.”
David Lang at this year's Festival:
Libby Larsen (b. 1950, USA)
Grammy award-winning composer who has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. "Music exists in an infinity of sound, " she says. "I think of all music as existing in the substance of the air itself. It is the composer's task to order and make sense of sound, in time and space, to communicate something about being alive through music."
Libby Larsen at this year's Festival:
Keeril Makan (b. 1972, USA)
Keeril Makan was born in New Jersey to parents of South-African Indian and Russian Jewish origin. He played the violin as a boy, and grew up surrounded by diverse musical cultures—Western classical, Indian classical, blues, rock—from which he was later to form his own, not by patching together so much as by stripping down, finding common basics, and building up again.
Keeril Makan at this year's Festival:
John Metcalf (b. 1946, Swansea)
Over the last 40 years, John Metcalf has been at the forefront of Welsh musical life with no fewer than seven operas under his belt and a wide variety of orchestral and chamber works. His music is characterised by melodic warmth and a distinctive lyrical quality - drawing the listener into a sound world that combines a meticulous balance between structure and emotion.
John Metcalf at this year's Festival:
Jan Willem Nelleke
Dutch composer and pianist, Jan Willem studied at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and enjoys a busy performance schedule touring venues across Europe as well as teaching at the Royal Conservatory.
Jan Willem Nelleke at this year's Festival:
Per Nørgärd (b. 1932, Denmark)
Per Nørgård is the most significant Danish composer after Carl Nielsen and Vagn Holmboe. His works embrace not only the wonder of the natural world but also the mathematical processes that give it order. These influences are channelled through his use of the “infinity series,” an integer sequence through which he organises looping patterns of melody, harmony and rhythm.
Per Nørgärd at this year's Festival:
Steph Power (b. 1965)
Steph Power’s career in music began as a guitarist, percussionist and narrator where she performed at international level and specialised in 20th century and contemporary music. Today she works mainly as a composer and writer – her music having been performed by PM Ensemble, Chamber Domaine, the Bridge Duo and pianist Llŷr Williams among others.
Steph Power at this year's Festival:
Qigang Chen (b. 1951, China)
Probably best known as the Director of Music for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Qigang Chen divides his time between China and France where for four years he was Messiaen’s only pupil. His works bridge traditional Chinese elements with Western instrumental forces – shot through with Gallic nuance.
Qigang Chen at this year's Festival:
Steve Reich (b. 1936, USA)
Over the last half century, Reich’s music has influenced generations of pop, jazz and classical musicians. His instantly recognisable sound combines propulsive rhythms with seductive instrumental colour. “What my generation did wasn’t a revolution” he says, “it was a restoration of harmony and rhythm in a whole new way … essentials that people wanted, that people craved.” The result – an output that continues to evolve and capture the world’s imagination.
Steve Reich at this year's Festival:
Peter Reynolds (1958 - 2016, b. Cardiff)
A long time friend and supporter of the Festival, Peter was a significant figure in the musical life of Wales as artistic director of the PM Music Ensemble and Lower Machen Festival and as a teacher in composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Peter Reynolds at this year's Festival:
David Roche (b. 1991, Tredegar)
David studied music at Cardiff University and is now studying for a PhD in music composition at the University of Cambridge. His music is celebratory, intense and bright – consciously in opposition to the circumstances of the world in which it is written.
David Roche at this year's Festival:
Bent Sørensen (b. 1958, Denmark)
The last 20 years has seen the emergence of Danish composer Bent Sørensen on the international stage, culminating in his winning the 2018 Grawemeyer Award. Melody, he says, lies at the heart of his music: “Good melody … has an identity of its own but it also has a memory, in itself, of something else”. His work has been likened to a hall of mirrors in which musical material is placed and then produces echoes, and echoes of echoes, spread like ripples in water.
Bent Sørensen at this year's Festival:
- BBC National Orchestra of Wales
- Alice Neary
- Jose Zalba Smith & Jan Willem Nelleke
- Ivan Ilic
- Matthew Jones & Annabel Thwaite
- Ensemble MidtVest (15 May)
- Ensemble MidtVest (16 May)
Helen Woods is a composer, musical director and performer with particular expertise of working in educational and community contexts. She has composed 4 full length musicals, several song cycles, and for Welsh National Opera, A Real Princess, an opera for 4 – 5 year olds.
Helen Woods at this year's Festival:
Javier Zalba (b.1955, Cuba)
Saxophonist, flautist and clarinettist, Javier Zalba graduated from the Cuban National School of Arts and has enjoyed an active performing career across a range of styles from classical and jazz to Cuban popular music. As a member of the Buena Vista Social Club orchestra he has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious venues. He is Professor of Saxophone at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatoire and a renowned teacher of Cuban Music.
Javier Zalba at this year's Festival: