Image © Katrin Schander
With her distinctive and intensely striking sonic language, Berlin-based British composer Rebecca Saunders is one of the leading international representatives of her generation. Born in London in 1967, she studied composition at Edinburgh University with Nigel Osborne and with Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe.
Since 2003, Saunders has steadily expanded the spectrum of her compositions, beginning with chroma (2003-2013), a collage of 6-23 instrument groups and sound sources distributed throughout a space. Since the premiere in 2003, 19 new versions have been produced for radically different performance venues, with the architectural conditions of these spaces determining the arrangement of the individual chamber music groups within the piece. Her most expansive spatial work to date, Stasis - Kollektiv (2011/2016), dedicated to Ensemble Kollektiv, comprises 25 ‘modules’ for 23 soloists, treating each soloist like a protagonist in a form of abstract instrumental theatre. Her first work for the stage, insideout, for a choreographed installation, was created in collaboration with Sasha Waltz amd received over 100 performances throughout Europe.
From 2013 to 2016, Saunders wrote a series of solos for performers with whom she has collaborated closely over many years, including Marco Blaauw, Nicolas Hodges, Teodoro Anzellotti, Séverine Ballon, and most recently Helen Bledsoe for Bite (2016), for solo bass flute. As if developing upon this process, she simultaneously pursued her keen interest in works for soloist in a concerto role by writing the double percussion concerto Void (2014) for Christian Dierstein and Dirk Rotbrust with the WDRSO, conducted by Peter Rundell, and the RPS shortlisted trumpet concerto Alba (2014) for Marco Blaauw, the BRSO and Peter Eötvös. These orchestral concertos marked the close of a triptych of works which also includes the violin concerto Still (2011). A new extended version of Still was produced in the summer of 2016 in a joint project with the Jungen Deutsen Philharmonie (JDP), with dancers from Sasha Waltz & Guests and choreographed by Antonio Rúz.
Saunders´ music has been performed and premiered by many prestigious ensembles, soloists and orchestras including Ensemble musikFabrik, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Resonanz, Ensemble Recherche, the Neue Vocalsolisten, Ensemble Remix, SWRSO, and the BBCSO, amongst others. Her compositions have been recognised with numerous prestigious awards, including an Ernst von Siemens Foundation Award, the ARD und BMW musicaviva Prize, the Paul Hindemith Prize, Royal Philharmonic Society Awards for Stirrings Still in 2008, and Fletch in 2013, a BASCA British Composer Award for Solitude in 2013, and the GEMA Music Prize for Instrumental Music. Most recently, Saunders received the Hans und Gertrud Zender Foundation Prize and the prestigious Mauricio Kagel Music Preis in 2015, and a BASCA British Composer Award for Alba in 2016. Accordionist Teo Anzellotti’s CD, Of Making Waters Moan, which included Saunders’ eponymous work, won the German Record of the Year for 2016.
Saunders is in great demand as a composition tutor and teaches regualrly at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and at the Impuls Academy in Graz. In addition, she has been professor for composition at the Hanover University of Music, Theatre and Media since 2011. In 2009 she became a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, and was honoured with membership of the Sachsen Academy of Arts in Dresden in 2013.
Her new work, Skin (premiered at the Donaueschinger Musiktage in 2016), is the first in a series of compositions with soprano, followed by an expansive one-hour spatial work for the Kammermusiksaal der Berliner Philharmonie in 2017, as well as a dance and music theatre work for 2020. Saunders’ music has been published by Edition Peters since 1997.