Robert Saxton was born in London in 1953 and started composing at the age of six. Guidance in early years from Benjamin Britten and lessons with Elisabeth Lutyens was followed by periods of study at both Cambridge (undergraduate) and Oxford (postgraduate) Universities with Robin Holloway and Robert Sherlaw Johnson respectively, and also with Luciano Berio. He won the Gaudeamus International Composers Prize in Holland at the age of twenty-one. In 1986 he was awarded the Fulbright Arts Fellowship to the USA, where he was in residence at Princeton. He became a DMus (Oxon) in 1992 and was elected an Hon Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge in 2015.
He has written works for the BBC (TV, Proms and Radio), LSO, LPO, ECO, London Sinfonietta, Nash Ensemble, Northern Sinfonia and David Blake (conductor), Antara, Arditti and Chilingirian String Quartets, St Paul Chamber Orchestra (USA), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival/Opera North, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, City of London, Three Choirs and Lichfield festivals, Stephen Darlington and the choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, the choir of Merton College Oxford, Susan Milan, Susan Bradshaw and Richard Rodney Bennett, Simon Desbruslais, Clare Hammond. Edward Wickham and The Clerks’ Group, Teresa Cahill, Leon Fleisher, Tasmin Little, Steven Isserlis, Mstislav Rostropovich, John Wallace and the Raphael Wallfisch and John York duo.
He was Professor of Composition at Oxford University and tutorial fellow in music at Worcester College from 1999 until his retirement in 2021. He has been Composer-in Association at the Purcell School for Young Musicians since 2013 and was appointed Senior Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music in 2021. His music from 1972 until 1998 was published by Chester/Music Sales and, since then, by the University of York Music Press and Ricordi (Berlin). Recordings have appeared on the Sony Classical, Hyperion, Metier, EMI , NMC, Divine Art and Signum labels.
Recent works include the opera The Wandering Jew; a song cycle for baritone Roderick Williams, Time and the Seasons for the Oxford Lieder Festival in 2013; Hortus Musicae books 1 and 2, a piano cycle for pianist Clare Hammond; The Resurrection of the Soldiers, commissioned jointly by George Vass for the 2016 Presteigne Festival and the English Symphony Orchestra and Kenneth Woods; Shakespeare Scenes, commissioned by the Orchestra of the Swan and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais; his fourth string quartet, for the Kreutzer Quartet; A Hymn to the Thames for oboist James Turnbull and the St Paul’s Sinfonia; and Fantasy Pieces for the Fidelio Trio. Jonathan Clinch will premiere Tombeau for H.B. for organ in autumn 2022; the English Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Woods will premiere Scenes from the Epic of Gilgamesh in Oxford in March 2023.
Recent recordings include a CD of piano music on Toccata Classics, Shakespeare Scenes on Signum; a portrait CD on Metier, to be released in September 2022, and a CD of organ works, which will be released in October 2022.
Robert Saxton is married to the soprano Teresa Cahill.
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Photo: Katie Vandyck