Cathy Nelson Artists and Projects
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Richard Baker - Composer/Conductor

Richard Baker is a leading figure in the world of contemporary music: composer, conductor, teacher, mentor and artistic adviser.

As a conductor, Baker works regularly with the leading composers and ensembles of our day. He has strong relationships with the London Sinfonietta, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Crash Ensemble and BIT20 Ensemble. He has conducted at many contemporary music festivals including hcmf// in Huddersfield and Ultraschall in Berlin, and is a regular collaborator for the BBC’s Total Immersion days, where he has directed portrait concerts of Stockhausen, George Crumb, James MacMillan, Jonathan Harvey, Oliver Knussen and Julian Anderson. In September 2017 he conducted one of four specially curated concerts at Milton Court, Barbican, to celebrate the arrival of Sir Simon Rattle as Chief Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. In spring 2019 he conducted Crash Ensemble in Fausto Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip at New Music Dublin, and made his debut with Glasgow New Music Expedition.

His acclaimed stewardship of Gerald Barry’s opera The Intelligence Park in Dublin in 2011 consolidated his reputation as a conductor of contemporary opera, in which capacity he is in frequent demand. In autumn 2012 he led English Touring Opera’s admired production of Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse and in spring 2013 returned to Gerald Barry for the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe’s double bill of Handel’s The Triumph of Time and Truth and Barry’s The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, with Opernglas writing of the latter that ‘Richard Baker led the Badische Staatskapelle with breathtaking virtuosity through this intricate, challenging score’. He is a frequent presence at the Linbury Theatre (Royal Opera House), where he has premiered new work for the stage by Francisco Coll, Elspeth Brooke and Matt Rogers, also leading tours to Aldeburgh and Opera North (‘Richard Baker’s wonderfully assured conducting …’ – Guy Dammann, Times Literary Supplement). He returned to Aldeburgh in 2018 with the premiere of Emily Howard’s opera To See the Invisible.

May 2017 saw Baker’s debut with Music Theatre Wales in their highly praised production of Guto Puw’s new Welsh-language opera, Y Tŵr. Philip Venables’s 4.48 Psychosis (after the play by Sarah Kane), which premiered at the Lyric Hammersmith in May 2016 under Baker’s musical direction, was shortlisted at both the Southbank Sky Arts Awards and the Olivier Awards; Baker conducted its French premiere with the Opéra National du Rhin in September 2019, as part of Strasbourg’s Musica Festival. In 2020 he conducts performances of Tippett’s The Knot Garden for English Touring Opera.

Baker studied composition in the Netherlands with Louis Andriessen and in London with John Woolrich, and first drew attention with Los Rábanos (1998), a trio recorded and widely performed by the Composers Ensemble, and the remarkable Learning to Fly (1999), a basset clarinet concerto premiered by the London Sinfonietta and Timothy Lines.

The position of New Music Fellow at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (2001–3) inaugurated an important additional strand of work as a concert curator and programme adviser. These and the immediately subsequent years yielded chamber music, a brace of short choral pieces and a number of songs and song cycles – notably Slow passage, low prospect (2004), a collaboration with the poet Lavinia Greenlaw commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival, and Written on a train (2006), for the mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn and a small ensemble led by Christian Tetzlaff.

Hommagesquisse, typically characterful and inventive, was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group to mark Pierre Boulez’s visit to that city in 2008. The Tyranny of Fun (2013), a second BCMG commission, was glowingly reviewed - ‘how assured Baker’s ensemble writing is, and how vividly it fleshes out its structural frame’ (Andrew Clements, The Guardian) – and won Baker a nomination for Chamber-Scale Composition in the 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. In 2010 Baker was the subject of a composer portrait in the Philharmonia’s Music of Today series, and the same year he wrote Gaming, a substantial chamber work for cello, marimba and piano, to a commission from the New York-based trio Real Quiet. Chamber music was again the focus during 2016 and 2017: Hwyl fawr ffrindiau for mixed sextet (again premiered by BCMG), Kerdantata for piano trio (for the Fidelio Trio) and two solo pieces, Risveglio for harp and Cofadail for piano. A further piano trio is underway, for the ATOS Trio and Wigmore Hall, and Baker is currently working on an orchestral commission for the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 2019/20 season.

Born in the West Midlands, Richard Baker was a chorister at Lichfield Cathedral and an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. He is a Research Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

© John Fallas

August 2019