Richard Baker is a leading figure on the British contemporary music scene as one of the foremost composer-conductors of his generation. He studied composition in the Netherlands with Louis Andriessen and in London with John Woolrich, and first drew significant attention with two early works – a trio, Los Rabanos (1998), performed and broadcast widely 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 strand of work as a concert curator and programme adviser as well as supporting Richard’s progress as a composer. 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), commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival for Christopher Purves and Andrew West, and Written on a train (2006) for Christianne Stotijn and a small ensemble led by Christian Tetzlaff.
Hommagesquisse, typically characterful and inventive, was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group – with whom Richard also has a strong relationship as conductor – to mark Pierre Boulez’s visit to that city in 2008. In 2010 Richard’s music was featured 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. He is currently working on a second BCMG commission, for premiere in 2013.
As a conductor, Richard works regularly with the leading composers of our day. In May 2011 he conducted Gerald Barry’s opera The Intelligence Park in Dublin, to high acclaim. He has built important relationships with many of the UK’s leading ensembles, including the London Sinfonietta, BCMG, Britten Sinfonia, Composers Ensemble and Apartment House. He has conducted musikFabrik at the Huddersfield Festival, and was music director for Franco Evangelisti’s Die Schachtel at the Ultraschall Festival in Berlin in 2006. He is a regular collaborator for the BBC’s Total Immersion days, conducting recent portraits of Stockhausen, George Crumb and James MacMillan, and in 2012 he will conduct the music of Jonathan Harvey in the same series.
Born in the West Midlands, a chorister at Lichfield Cathedral and an undergraduate at Oxford University, Richard has recently also taught as a professor of composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Copyright John Fallas, September 2011
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