Australian-born pianist, composer, and arranger.
"The three most important influences on my musical life were Werner Baer, who was a pupil of Arthur Schnabel, and the pianists Louis Kentner and Wilhelm Kempff. Werner was at the ABC, and he gave me my first real chance to perform in public, and pushed me to broadcast my early compositions. He also suggested that I should work as a piano duo team with Rhondda Gillespie, and arranged all our early duo performances on radio and TV in Australia, Rhondda and I had a long career as a piano duo, first in Australia, then in Europe - we even played in Saudi Arabia - but I think the duo concerts I remember with most affection were the simultaneous live concert broadcasts for the ABC at the Sydney Opera House. Malcolm Batty, was then in charge, and we had tremendous fun on stage; but I shall always. be grateful to Werner for giving us the kick-start we needed.
"It was in Europe, however, that I soon realised that to play European Music - from the Baroque through to the late Romantics - one has to immerse oneself in the culture and Art of the European peoples, - and to assimilate it, personally, as best one can. Then, as a performer, to take stock and play the music one plays best; - that with which one has an inherent affinity."
Robert rehearsing at Balliol College Music Society, Oxford University - May 2014
Photo courtesy of Caeth Robins
Louis - as I knew him - in the music room of his home in Chelsea, London
Kempff at home
Robert was always keen to promote the music of Australian composers, and included their music - and his own - in his solo programmes. His 'Dreamtime Suite' was first broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in their Young Australia series, and he premiered 'Mnajdra' in a simultaneous live concert broadcast performance in the Sydney Opera house.
A number of composers wrote music especially for his Duo with Rhondda Gillespie. These included Robert Matthew Walker, Miriam Hyde, and Sir John Dankworth. The duo performed Sir Malcolm Arnold's concerto for piano four hands and strings at the BBC's celebration concert for the composer's 70th birthday, and the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra for his 80th birthday. They introduced Franz Reizenstein's arrangement of Arnold's famous 'English Dances' to audiences worldwide; and gave the World Premiere of John Dankworth's 'Fantasia Enigmatica' at the 1986 Festival of Sydney. Also in Sydney, for The South Pacific Liszt Society, they gave the first performance in the Southern Hemisphere of Liszt's 'Concerto Pathetique' for two pianos.
Until arthritis stopped Rhondda being able to perform, the Duo's performances and recordings included works by Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Liszt, Wagner, Moskowski, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Saint Saens, Sydney Smith, Sir Malcolm Arnold, William Walton, Robert Matthew Walker - and Australian composers Peter Sculthorpe, Miriam Hyde, John Carmichael, and Arthur Benjamin.
Robert founded the St Leonard's Festival (UK) in 1984, and the Phoenicia Festival of Chamber Music (Malta) in 1985.
Robert and Rhondda - Sydney Town Hall - Festival of Sydney -
Victorian Soiree. (City of Sydney Archives - copyright.)
With Rhondda Gillespie and Sir Malcolm Arnold - rehearsing for his 70th birthday BBC performance of
his Concerto for Piano Duet and Strings with the BBC orchestra under Barry Wordsworth..
Photo: Caeth Robins
Today Robert plays for pleasure and for charity - "That means I play when and what I want!" - and continues to promote the music of Australian composers. He also includes his own compositions in his eclectic programmes, and the music of South America's musicians - particularly from Cuba and Brasil - influences much of his current work. Some of his arrangements of music by Errol Garner, Celia Cruz, and Angel Pena are amongst the most popular in his programmes.
Premieres - World and other: Fantasia Enimgatica - John Dankworth: (World) Sydney Festival 1986. Le Tombeau de Milhand - Robert Matthew-Walker: (World) Salisbury Festival. Divertimento on a theme of Mozart - Robert Matthew-Walker: (World) Salisbury Festival. Geharnischte Lied Liszt transcribed Weatherburn: (World) Sydney Festival. Mnajdra - Weatherburn: (World) Sydney Opera House. Concerto Pathetique - Liszt: (Australian) South Pacific Liszt Society Sydney. The Night Ride - Liszt for two pianos: (Australian, Malta) South Pacific Liszt Society Sydney, and Phoenicis Festival. Mystras - Weatherburn: (World) Balliol Music Society Oxford University. Hebro - Weatherburn: (World) Balliol Music Society Oxford University. Jenolan Caves Suite - Weatherburn: (World) ABC Radio Young Australia concert broadcast and simultaneous ABC TV. Dreamtime Suite - Weatherburn: (World) Phoenicia Festival. Songs of Sorrow - Frances Dalvin: (World) British Council London. Let me Weep - Handel transcribed Weatherburn: (World) ABC Live recital. (Compilation still in progress)
Commercial recordings for Sony Classical, AVM, Trax Classique, Festival Records. Platinum records &c
There are a number of live radio performance recordings of Robert playing, and these can be heard on Youtube: works by Peter Sculthorpe, Francis Dalvin, Malcolm Arnold, Beethoven, Robert Matthew-Walker, Liszt, Schubert, Errol Garner, and some of his own arrangements.
In 2019, for services to Australian Music and promoting Australian musicians on the international stage, Robert was awarded the honour of the Medal of the Order of Australia.
Follow the link below to hear live concert and radio performances
"This was a wonderful concert; beautiful programme, and awesome performance..."
Paul Thiekoetter, Balliol Music Society, Oxford University.