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Richard Bolley


Born: 1951


Having spent twenty years living in Auckland, Richard Bolley is proud to consider himself – at least in part – a New Zealander, although he lives at present in London, England, where he was born in 1951.

Up until 2010 his compositional life had been rather episodic, with periods of absorption in creativity interspersed with phases during which his life as first an administrator of the arts and then of education has taken over. With the commencement of a part-time PhD in Composition at Goldsmiths, University of London, however, composition became a regular part of his life once more.

His portfolio of compositions entitled Travels with Alex, inspired by the travel writings of the intrepid French Buddhist, Alexandra David-Néel, comprises an hour-long cycle of nine pieces for obbligato viola and various instrumental groups. Three of these pieces were performed in a concert at Goldsmiths on the 5th of June 2018. Entitled ‘Mantras and Mandalas’, the event involved eight monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the Ligeti Quartet, counter-tenor Ben Williamson, prepared-piano player Kate Ryder and others, conducted by Roger Redgate (his supervisor at Goldsmiths).

Richard studied composition at the University of York with Richard Orton, at the Royal College of Music with John Lambert (he won a Herbert Howells Prize for Composition at the RCM) and, for a short time, with Jonathan Harvey. In New Zealand he studied at the University of Auckland with John Rimmer and John Elmsly, subsequently being awarded a doctoral scholarship and a Claude McCarthy Fellowship. An early interest in vocal music broadened later into explorations of electronic media, the orchestra and, even (his own instrument), the piano – of which a long acquaintance had led him to be rather nervous. Recurrent preoccupations have been the interplay of highly ordered and free-form elements, of mosaic structures with melismatic vocal and instrumental lines and a quasi-spiritual search for a balance of dissonance and tonal elements.

Composed (46)

A mandala of the five buddhas

for soprano, four baritones, oboe, clarinet, alto sax, bassoon, violin and two pianos

A quietening of hindrances

for three pianos, 7m

Alexander's Music

for solo flute, 7m

An island lilt

for two violins

An island lilt

for piano

Anthem 1

for soprano and SATB choir with optional organ accompaniment, 2m

Antiphony: Pictures of Villon for 15 musicians

for 2 sopranos, 2 tenors, 2 baritones, 3 percussion and string quintet, 40m

April Rise

for soprano, mezzo-soprano, violin, vibraphone and piano


for 2 clarinets, 2 cellos, percussion and piano


for double quintet (combined wind and string quintets), 6m

Canticles in D minor

for SATB choir with organ

Citadels (Travels with Alex 9)

for viola obbligato and small ensemble


a cantata derived from the writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) for counter tenor, violin and piano, 25m

Concerto for Orchestra

for trumpet, clarinet, cello and orchestra, 24m


for tenor and piano


for vibraphone and piano


for organ

Face to Face

for clarinet and piano

Fantasia on She mov'd thro' the fair

for soprano, two violins, two cellos, celesta and piano

Five Fragments

for piano

Fleeting Masks

for mixed chamber quartet, 5m

Flights (Travels with Alex 1)

for viola obbligato and chamber ensemble, 9m


for ten flutists

Forests (Travels with Alex 2)

for viola obbligato and large ensemble

Full moon/brimming water

for soprano, vibraphone, three suspended cymbals and three gongs

Gothic Shards

for prepared piano, drum-kit and electronic tape (one player)

Haec Dies

for alto saxophone and piano, 8m

Intimations (Travels with Alex 3)

for countertenor, viola obbligato and small ensemble

Invocations (Travels with Alex 5)

for string quartet (featuring viola obbligato)


for vibraphone and harp

Nocturnes (Travels with Alex 6)

for viola obbligato, harp and two percussion players

Odysseys (Travels with Alex 8)

for countertenor, viola obbligato and chamber ensemble

One way of reflecting the moon

for alto flute, bass clarinet, vibraphone, 3 suspended cymbals and 3 gongs

Only the Certain Spring

for mezzo-soprano, clarinet, electronic organ, percussion and piano

per eco in lontano

for orchestra and string quartet

Processions (Travels with Alex 7)

for viola obbligato and small ensemble

Reflections of 'She mov'd thro' the fair'

for soprano, oboe, piano duet (or solo) and percussion


for tenor and string quartet

Scherzi (Travels with Alex 4)

for viola obbligato and chamber ensemble


a song cycle for tenor, clarinet in B flat and piano, 13m

Tennyson Morning (1st Aubade)

for piccolo, two violins, two violas and two pianos

Thème varié

for bassoon and piano

Thème varié

for cello and piano

Travels with Alex

for viola obbligato and various chamber ensembles

Villon Ripple

for mixed chamber ensemble, 1m