Australian born pianist, composer, and arranger.
"Soulmates!" - Wilhelm Kempff.
Although largely self taught, Robert Weatherburn had lessons - for a short time - with Alexander Sverjensky, at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music: then with Louis Kentner, and Wilhelm Kempff.
In those early years, and apart from his solo and chamber music performances - the latter with the violinist Charmian Gadd - Werner Baer, the Music Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, suggested that he and Rhondda Gillespie should work as a piano duo team. Almost immediately they began broadcasting on radio and television; and later toured worldwide, performing the rich repertoire of this specialised genre. "I'll always be grateful to Werner" Robert says. "He gave me my first real chance to perform in public, and pushed me to broadcast my early compositions.
"Then I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Europe with a scholarship, and 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.
"The three most important influences on my musical life were Werner Baer (a pupil of Arthur Schnabel) and the pianists Louis Kentner and Wilhelm Kempff."
Robert 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 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 - they gave the first performance in the Southern Hemisphere of Liszt's 'Concerto Pathetique' for two pianos.
Until Rhondda's death, 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. The Duo was associated in Festivals with The London Mozart Players, The English Chamber Orchestra, The Nash Ensemble, The Johann Strauss Orchestra, The Amati Ensemble, The Ronnie Scott Quintet &c.
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 a BBC performance of
his Concerto for Piano Duet and Strings - with the BBC orchestra.
Photo: Caeth Robins
Today - playing solo - he continues to promote the music of Australian composers, and also includes his own compositions in his eclectic programmes. The music of South America's musicians - particularly from Cuba and Brasil - influences much of his current work.
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 Weatheruburn: (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 performance recordings of Robert playing on Youtube: works by Peter Sculthorpe, Francis Dalvin, Malcolm Arnold, and some of his own arrangements.
Follow this link to hear live performances: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcxYGX4Nbxavrwh1kbJF_jg
"A helping hand
"This was a wonderful concert; beautiful programme, and awesome performance..."
Paul Thiekoetter, Balliol Music Society, Oxford University.