Carolyn Sampson


"Her voice was, as always, a model of beauty combined with style…"

Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard

"Sampson’s light bright timbre touches the heart…"

Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

"The highlight of Carolyn Sampson’s singing was in the fifth movement, where here razor-sharp tuning and brilliantly introduced vibrato was masterful."

Bernard Hughes, The Arts Desk

"Sung with luminous perfection and beautiful diction by Carolyn Sampson."

Keith Bruce, Herald Scotland

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Equally at home on the concert and opera stages, Carolyn Sampson has enjoyed notable successes in the UK as well as throughout Europe and the US.

On the opera stage her roles have included the title role in Semele and Pamina in The Magic Flute for English National Opera, various roles in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen for Glyndebourne Festival Opera (released on DVD) and Anne Truelove The Rake’s Progress and Mélisande Pelléas et Mélisande in Sir David McVicar’s productions for Scottish Opera. In the 21/22 season she sang Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare at the Palau in Barcelona. Internationally she has appeared at Opéra de Paris, Opéra de Lille, Opéra de Montpellier and Opéra National du Rhin. She also sang the title role in Lully’s Psyché for the Boston Early Music Festival, which was released on CD and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy in 2008.

Carolyn’s numerous concert engagements in the UK have included regular appearances at the BBC Proms, and with orchestras including the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, English Concert, Hallé, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Sixteen, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

In Europe her many appearances have included concerts with Bergen Philharmonic, Freiburger Barockorchester, Gürzenich Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

In the US Carolyn has featured as soloist with the Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, and San Francisco Symphonies, the Orchestra of St Luke’s, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra with whom she has recorded both Mahler 4 and Mahler 8 (Soprano 1 and 3) with Osmo Vanskaa as part of their Mahler collection with BIS records. She is a regular guest at the Mostly Mozart Festival. In October 2013 she made her Carnegie Hall recital debut to a sold-out audience in the Weill Recital Hall, and has given recitals at the Lincoln Center, New York, and San Francisco Performances.

Carolyn works with conductors such as Sir Mark Elder, Harry Bicket, Ivor Bolton, Riccardo Chailly, Harry Christophers, Philippe Herreweghe, Louis Langrée, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Trevor Pinnock, Masaaki Suzuki and Donald Runnicles.

A consummate recitalist, Carolyn Sampson appears regularly at the Wigmore Hall where she was a “featured artist” in the 14/15 season. She has given recitals at the Oxford and Leeds Lieder, Saintes and Aldeburgh Festivals as well as at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Barcelona, Freiburg, Oper Frankfurt, Pierre Boulez Saal Berlin, Vienna Konzerthaus, and a recital tour of Japan.

Carolyn has developed a partnership with the pianist Joseph Middleton over recent years. Her debut song recital disc with Joseph, 'Fleurs', was released early in 2015 featuring songs by composers from Purcell to Britten, and was nominated in the solo vocal category of the Gramophone Awards. Since then they have gone on to release several further recordings for the BIS label, including the upcoming ‘Elysium’ an album of songs by Schubert.

Alongside her longstanding relationship with the BIS label she has released multi award-winning discs for Decca, Harmonia Mundi, and Hyperion, receiving accolades including the Choc de l'Année Classica!, Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice, BBC Music Magazine’s “Record of the Month”, an ECHO Award, and a Diapason D’or. Her recording with Ex Cathedra for Hyperion, 'A French Baroque Diva' won the recital award in the 2015 Gramophone Awards. Carolyn was also nominated for Artist of the Year in the 2017 Gramophone Awards, and her recording of Mozart’s Mass in C minor and Exsultate Jubilate with Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan won the Choral Award. Their subsequent recording together of Bach St Matthew Passion also won the Choral Award in the 2020 Gramophone Awards. The past seasons have seen the release of many acclaimed recordings, notably Carolyn’s first solo orchestra CD, Canteloube 'Chants d'Auvergne' with Tapiola Sinfonietta and Pascal Rophé and the acclaimed album Trennung: Songs of Separation with Kristian Bezuidenhout, both under the BIS label.

Plans for this season and beyond include recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Oxford Lieder, the Amsterdam Concergebow and Tokyo’s Oji Hall, performances with Yomimuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven 9), Finnish Baroque Orchestra, the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra (St John Passion), Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, Bach Collegium Japan, performances with Les Violons du Roy in Quebec and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with Residentie Orkest and Jun Maerkl. Among her many performance engagements, 22/23 also sees the release of further highly anticipated recordings.

In 23/24 Carolyn will make her debut at Berlin Staatsoper as well as releasing what will be her 100th Recording as a featured solo artist.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Hugo Wolf: Italienisches Liederbuch, BIS Records

August 2022

Both Clayton and Sampson – the latter capable of a vast range of utterance, from the humorously teasing to the tender and even scornful, from pure-toned to full-throated – bring out the enormous range of feeling captured in these miniature masterpieces.


‘Carolyn Sampson sings the final song cataloguing all of her other lovers with cruel abandon, positively shouting the line ‘And ten in Castiglione!’. Alas for the suitor so often overwhelmed by his feelings for the woman!’

Christopher Cook, BBC Music Magazine

'Sampson ['s] voice is bright and pellucid, and her intelligence always shines through.'

Hugo Shirley, Gramophone Magazine

The Heath Quartet: Berg, Webern and Schoenberg, Signum Records

(SIGCD712 / July 2022)

The quartet is joined by Carolyn Sampson for the last two movements, and what a contribution she makes: her crystal-clear soprano complements the string sound quite beautifully, though where required there’s also a thrilling weight to the sound which I’d never heard this singer summon before…

Katherine Cooper, Presto Music

La soprano intervé en el tercer moviment cantant «Litanei» (‘Lletania’), de Stefan George, un moviment molt difícil d’una gran dificultat interpretativa que Sampson resol amb una esplèndida elegància. En el quart i últim moviment, netament atonal, la soprano anglesa transmet amb gran distinció la poesia tremendament dolorosa de George: «I feel […] darkness».

Translation: The soprano intervenes in the third movement singing "Litanei" ('Litany'), by Stefan George, a very difficult movement of great interpretative difficulty that Sampson solves with splendid elegance. In the fourth and last movement, purely atonal, the English soprano conveys with great distinction George's tremendously painful poetry: “I feel the air of another planet / the friendly faces that were turned toward me / but lately, now are fading into darkness “.

Joseph Bosch, Sonograma

Sampson’s warm lyricism is ideal both in the slow movement where Schoenberg’s grief at the tragic events unfolding around him finds its deepest expression.

Misha Donat, BBC Music Magazine

“Here, and again in the finale, Carolyn Sampson stays just the right side of a no-holds-barred operatic style”

Arnold Wittal, Gramophone

"in the Schoenberg, a deeply lyrical Sampson capture[s] the extraordinary intensity"

Dan Cairns, The Times, Best Albums of 2022

"Carolyn Sampson is also admirable here, her diction, musical intelligence, phrasing and tonal variation are exceptional, as is this recording."

Robert Matthew-Walker, Musical Opinion

Trennung : Songs of Separation

BIS records, Carolyn Sampson and Kristian Bezuidenhout

Everything about this recording declares perfection ... Sampson's decades of experience and total ease with vocal ornamentation provide one unexpected delight after the other ... Sampson and Bezuidenhout grace us with [an] authentic version, in which ornamentation speaks as strongly as rallentando. It's marvelous, as is Sampson's delightful little fizz of vibrato at the end of appropriate phrases in other songs. Trennung's capper, Haydn's solo cantata "Arianna a Naxos," rivals the best.

Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile

Carolyn Sampson is een begenadigd verteller die nooit verveelt en alles met een uniek mooie stemkleur en perfecte dictie overbrengt, daarbij gesteund door Kristian Bezuidenhout, een musicus met dezelfde grote klasse.

Translation: Carolyn Sampson is a gifted storyteller who never gets bored and conveys everything with a uniquely beautiful voice colour and perfect diction, supported by Kristian Bezuidenhout, a musician of the same great class.

Sylvia Broeckaert, Klara

“[Carolyn Sampson] presents every song as being delivered by a well-drawn protagonist, and emerges as a master storyteller in one of her most emotionally direct performances on disk.”

David Patrick Stearrs, Gramophone

“Carolyn Sampson enthrallingly unfold the tale of shipwrecked love”

“The phrases of Lied der Trennung are tenderly ornamented and sung with deep pathos by Sampson”

“Sampson’s beguiling, luminous voice, with immaculate German and elegant delivery, is perfectly matched by Bezuidenhout’s endlessly inventive imagination."

Natasha Loges, BBC Music Magazine *****

“Given the musicians involved, it should come as no surprise to learn that ‘Trennung’ is an immaculately crafted and beautifully performed album. […] Sampson’s signature brightness of timbre in her higher register, coupling/contrasting with her ability to introduce earthier flavours of stress or sensuality, especially slightly lower down the scale.”

– Art Muse London

HANDEL Messiah

Orchestra of St Luke's, Carnegie Hall & Bernard Labadie (April 2022)

Joshua Blue, a tenor stepping in for the ill Andrew Staples, had a consistent brightness — much like his fellow soloist, the soprano Carolyn Sampson, who after warming up bounded through runs with skilful control and enunciation.

Joshua Barone, New York Times

HANDEL Messiah

Handel & Haydn Society, Boston & Harry Christophers (November 2021)

Soprano Carolyn Sampson cast an angelic vocal presence in her featured moments. She managed the quick vocal turns of “Rejoice greatly” with dexterity, her smooth tone bringing soft repose in the middle section. “I know that my redeemer liveth” was just as affecting, her warm, glowing voice conveying a sense of self-assuredness in the text’s statement of faith.

Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review

Carolyn Sampson delivered perfectly supported and well-projected vocalisms over a wide dynamic range, angelic and consoling and prophetic by turns.

Lee Eiseman, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne, BIS Records

with Tapoila Sinfonietta & Pascal Rophé, released Oct 2021

…few can match Sampson’s overall sense of exuberant joy in these wonderful songs […] Her characterisation is superb, elated in ‘Lo calhe’ (The Quail), playfully coquettish in ‘Tchut, tchut’ (Shush, shush), yet unaffectedly tender in ‘Brezairola’ (Lullaby).

Michael Beek, BBC Music Magazine

Chanteuse rompue à tous les genres musicaux et à l’aise du baroque aux répertoires du XXe siècle, l’Anglaise Carolyn Sampson séduit par la plastique superbe de son timbre et sa musicalité naturelle. Elle incarne, sans surjouer ces chansons traditionnelles si magnifiquement harmonisées et orchestrées par Canteloube.

Translation: A singer familiar with all musical genres and at ease from baroque to 20th century repertoires, the Englishwoman Carolyn Sampson seduces with the superb plasticity of her tone and her natural musicality. She embodies, without overplaying these traditional songs so magnificently harmonized and orchestrated by Canteloube.

Pierre-Jean Tribot, Crescendo Magazine

Carolyn Sampson […] aborde ce répertoire avec une évidente sincérité, beaucoup de probité, un respect fidèle des indications, un timbre lumineux et une maîtrise impeccable des grandes lignes mélodiques que Canteloube recueillit sur le terrain avant de les sertir dans une instrumentation virtuose.

Translation: Carolyn Sampson […] approaches this repertoire with obvious sincerity, a lot of probity, a faithful respect for indications, a luminous timbre and an impeccable mastery of the main melodic lines that Canteloube collected in the field before setting them in a virtuoso instrumentation.

Charles Sigle, Forum Opera

Carolyn Sampson is on terrific form. Her diction is excellent and the sheer sound of her voice gave me consistent pleasure. Set 1 opens the disc in winning fashion. In ‘La pastoura als camps’ (The Shepherdess in the Fields) she gaily relates the story, singing characterfully but with a pleasing lightness of touch. […] Equally persuasive is her account of ‘La delaissado’ (The Deserted One). […] Ms Sampson captures the melancholy of the music perfectly. This is one of the outstanding performances in the programme.

Carolyn Sampson is a delightful and highly engaging soloist. She sings the slow, lyrical songs beautifully, investing words and music with great feeling. She’s just as successful in the quick, witty numbers; in these you can tell that she’s singing with a smile on her face. Her diction is admirably clear and though I’m no expert in the pronunciation of the Auvergnois dialect, what I heard corresponded with what I expected to hear as I followed the texts in the booklet. Ms Sampson’s partnership with Pascal Rophé and the Tapiola Sinfonietta is a conspicuous success.

John Quinn, Music Web International

Sampson’s soprano is bright and coquettish, […]. There is plenty of character and expression to her singing, notably in the Trois Bourrées […]. Sampson gets her tongue around the notoriously difficult-to-learn Auvergne dialect, derived from Occitan, nimbly.

Mark Pullinger, Gramophone

"La proposition « cinq étoiles » de Carolyn Sampson et Pascal Rophé nous sort de clichés sans complaisance, pour une offre musicale sublime en tout point. […] Sous la fraicheur du timbre de Carolyn Sampson, ses origines populaires deviennent de véritables envolées lyriques de grande qualité dans Lo fiolairé (La fileuse), et d’une élégance indéniable dans Quan z’eyro petitoune (Lorsque j’étais petite). C’est forte d’une dextérité solide et d’une diction parfaite face à la langue auvergnate que la soprano magnifie Lou coucut (Le coucou), Carolyn Sampson diffusant grâce à une sincérité évidente et une sensibilité réjouissante, les inflexions lyriques de cette langue régionale au sein d’un sens du discours parfaitement maîtrisé, presque théâtral dans Oï ayaï (Oh ! Ah !) ou Tè, l’co, tè ! (Va, l’chien, va !)."

"The "five stars" proposal of Carolyn Sampson and Pascal Rophé takes us out of clichés without complacency, for a sublime musical offer in every way. […] Under the freshness of Carolyn Sampson's timbre, her popular origins become true lyrical flights of high quality in Lo fiolairé (The Spinner), and of undeniable elegance in Quan z'eyro petitoune (When I was little). It is with a solid dexterity and a perfect diction in the face of the Auvergne language that the soprano magnifies Lou coucut (The cuckoo), Carolyn Sampson diffusing thanks to an obvious sincerity and a joyful sensitivity, the lyrical inflections of this regional language within a perfectly mastered, almost theatrical sense of discourse in Oï ayaï (Oh! Ah!) or Tè, l'co, tè! (Go, the dog, go!)."

Charlotte Saulneron, Res Musica

Sampson is known mostly as a Baroque specialist, and her creamy voice suits these songs well…

James Manheim, All Music

Pergolesi's Stabat Mater & Stravinsky's Pulcinella

BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall (August 2021)

…we were rewarded with some remarkably beautiful singing: […] Sampson and Mead have great reserves of sweetness in their voices and the ability to make long notes bloom as they progress.

David Karlin, bachtrack

Her voice was, as always, a model of beauty combined with style…

…possibly the most beautiful moments came in Sampson’s ‘Sancta mater’, her slurs astonishingly accurate.

Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard

Recital with Roderick Williams & Joe Middleton

Leeds Lieder (June 2021)

Soprano Carolyn Sampson and baritone Roderick Williams intelligently and humorously challenged perceptions (perhaps by people of a certain age) that it’s not possible for music written for one gender, to be performed by another. It is, and they did. Brilliantly.

Colin Petch, Northern Soul

It was a cleverly devised, beautifully polished programme.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Schubert's Elysium

with Joe Middleton, Wigmore Hall (May 2021)

Sampson sang with a silvery purity, producing some lovely line alongside fine words […]. Sampson was able to give us many different incarnations of joy and wonder, along with a sense of essential goodness and almost simplicity, yet the result when combined with Middleton's piano created a complex mix.

The sheer joy which both artists seem to have in performing this music to a live audience really conveyed itself.

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

Bach's B Minor Mass

Academy of Ancient Music and VOCES8, London Spring Festival (March 2021)

There are many ways to tackle Bach, although in the Covid era leaner forces are inevitably favoured […] Carolyn Sampson […] bolstered some of the choruses, blending seamlessly yet adding welcome firepower when needed.

Rebecca Franks, The Times

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