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ROBERT HART BAKER

 

Music Director
York Symphony Orchestra, PA
St. Louis Philharmonic, MO

Robert Hart Baker is Music Director and Conductor of the York Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania. He also serves as director of the York Symphony Chorus and Chamber Singers. He also serves as Music Director and Conductor of the St. Louis Philharmonic and the Harrisburg Choral Society. He is principal guest conductor with the Asheville Lyric Opera Company, and is conductor laureate of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina. Under his leadership, his groups have experienced unprecedented artistic growth and enjoy a large following of devoted concertgoers.

His broad repertory of classical symphonic, opera, choral and ballet scores are complemented by his skills as a Pops conductor, and he has received critical praise on the podium here and abroad in all genres. Through his musical guidance, the York Symphony Orchestra has received two national Volunteer Council Awards from the League Of American Orchestras for innovative educational outreach programs, the Student Song Contest (2003) and the Saturday Morning Symphony (2005). His DVD of the St. Louis Philharmonic Holiday Spectacular won the national Telly Award in 2004 for best classical local cable TV production. In December 2007, his holiday video with the Kirkwood Children's Chorale was in the finals of NBC's nationally-televised competition Clash Of The Choirs. His latest DVD with the same forces is "2010 Holiday Pops Concert". In joint collaboration with his colleague Stephen Gunzenhauser, Robert conducted the film score for the Lancaster-York Heritage Region DVD Stories Of The Land—Along Dutch Country Roads, with the studio orchestra combining York Symphony and Lancaster Symphony musicians. Robert Hart Baker is one of the most experienced conductors of his generation, with a vast repertoire from Bach to Stravinsky. Among the more than 1000 concerts he has led have been complete cycles of the Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky symphonies and Strauss tone poems, in addition to most of the orchestral works of Mahler, Dvorak, Schubert, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc and Ernest Bloch.

His tenure with his orchestras has been distinguished by collaborations with many prominent soloists, including pianists Joaquin Achucarro, Dickran Atamian, Seth Carlin, Misha Dichter, James Dick, Sergei Edelmann, Claude Frank, Adam Golka, Yuliya Gorenman, Eric Himy, Valentina Igoshina, Yakov Kazman, Leonid Kuzmin, Oleg Marshev, Anne-Marie McDermott, Christopher O'Riley, Constantine Orbelian, Thomas Pandolfi, Natasha Paremski, Alexander Peskanov, Dimitri Ratser, Avis Romm, Roman Rudnitsky, Peter Serkin, Boris Slutsky, Vladimir Stoupel, Andre Watts and Jingyi Zhang, violinists Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Pip Clarke, Pamela Frank, David Halen, Daniel Heifetz, Ilya Kaler, Rachel Lee, Stefan Milenkovich, Kurt Nikkanen, David Perry, Mark Peskanov, Philippe Quint, Anna Rabinova, Aaron Rosand and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violists Paul Neubauer and Andy Simionescu, cellists Ani Aznavoorian, Zuill Bailey, Carter Brey, David Finckel, Daniel Gaisford, Richard Hirschl, Scott Kluksdahl, Janos Starker and Paul Tobias, saxophonists Paul Cohen, James Houlik and Branford Marsalis, flutists James Galway and Carol Wincenc, English hornist Thomas Stacy, clarinetists Hakan Rosengren and David Shifrin, trumpeters Stephen Burns, David Hickman and Ronald Romm, French hornist Richard Todd, percussionist Lisa Pegher, harpsichordist Gretchen Dekker, guitarist Angel Romero, harmonica soloist Robert Bonfiglio, soprano Lindsey McKee, and mezzo-sopranos Gwendolyn Bowers and Jennifer Larmore. At the 10th anniversary concert of the Asheville Lyric Opera, he had the pleasure of conducting arias with a stellar cast of singers from the Metropolitan Opera, including soprano Angela Brown, tenor Tonio Di Paolo, and baritones David Malis and Sherrill Milnes.

As a guest conductor he has appeared with many American orchestras, including Billings, Chattanooga, Cheyenne, Flagstaff, Harrisburg, Muskegon, Providence, Quincy (IL), Roanoke and Radio City Music Hall, to name but a few. In May 2010 he made his debut with the Boston Pops as part of its 125th anniversary celebration, with violin soloist Lynn Chang. His recent international guest conducting engagements have been with the Regina Symphony in Canada, Orquestra do Norte in Porto, Portugal, the State Philharmonic Orchestra in Vratza, Bulgaria, the Tito Schipa Symphony Orchestra of Lecce, Italy, and the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra in Toluca, Mexico. He has also appeared as guest conductor with the orchestras of Szeged, Hungary; Sabadell, Spain; Messina, Italy; Pusan, Korea; and Zurich, Switzerland. Fluent in French, German and Italian, he is equally at home with opera. He has appeared as an opera conductor with the Spoleto Festival, Brevard Music Center, Connecticut, and Cullowhee Festival opera companies. He served as an assistant conductor to Christian Badea and Gian Carlo Menotti for six summers in Italy. He has conducted the North Carolina Dance Theatre ballet company on three occasions.

Maestro Baker is committed to the training and education of young musicians. He has been a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, Mars Hill College, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and the State University of New York at Purchase. He is the former Music Director of the
New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall, and conductor laureate of the York (PA) Youth Symphony. He has also been a guest faculty member at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, and has taught choral and instrumental summer workshops at Penn State York and the Logos Academy. His most recent performance as a solo oboist with the York Symphony can be seen on YouTube in the Bach Concerto for Oboe and Violin with Harrisburg Symphony concertmaster Odin Rathnam. He is married to flutist Barbra Duvall Baker, with whom he maintains an active chamber music schedule. They have appeared in joint recital at the Palaces of St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival in Russia, and recently played on the Performers of Westchester Chamber Music Series in New York. The Bakers make their home on a small farm in York, where they raise and ride Iberian horses.

Robert can count many of the music world's leading figures among his private teachers. Born in New York, Robert pursued musical studies at the Horace Mann School with conductors Henry Bloch and Johannes Somary, and studied oboe the Manhattan School of Music with Henry Schuman. His early training included conducting rehearsals of the Indianapolis, Baltimore, and Quebec Symphonies.

Robert holds a diploma in conducting from the Mozarteum Conservatory in Salzburg, where he made his professional debut at the age of 17 as a student of Herbert von Karajan and Gustav Kuhn. He attended the Summer Music Academy in Nice, France where received a diploma in oboe from Lucien Debray, and a diploma in chamber music from Jacques Lancelot. He is a cum laude graduate of Harvard, where conducted the Bach Society Orchestra for two seasons, while studying conducting with Leonard Bernstein and James Yannatos, and oboe with Ralph Gomberg of the Boston Symphony. He holds two master's degrees and a doctorate in conducting from the Yale School of Music, where he studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller and Arthur Weisberg, and oboe with Robert Bloom and Ronald Roseman.

Robert was the founding Music Director of the Connecticut Philharmonic Orchestra at age 22, receiving critical acclaim for its debut in Boston Symphony Hall. A scholar in American music, he worked on closely on projects with composers Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Suzanne Bloch while at Yale, where he also gave lectures on score reading and analysis as a graduate assistant. He did extensive research on the manuscripts of orchestral works by Horatio Parker (better known as the teacher of Charles Ives) and Paul Hindemith. Robert is also an expert on the music of Caryl Florio (born William Robjohn), the London- born organist who became composer-in-residence at the famed Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in the early 20th century. While working as a Baroque music editor in London for Vanguard Records, he studied the symphonies of Haydn and oratorios of Handel from original manuscripts at the British Museum.

Robert was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from York College of Pennsylvania, and has received two awards from the American Society of Composers, Publishers & Authors for contemporary music programming. He has compact disc and DVD releases on several record labels, including Aurefon, Ernest Bloch Society, and Sonari. His arrangement of the Borodin Nocturne for String Orchestra with the English Chamber Orchestra is a best-seller on Vanguard.

REVIEWS

"Conductors like Mr. Baker do not happen every day, unfortunately."

                                                                                         Christian Science Monitor

"The performances of the evening were all of superior quality."

                                                                                                   The New York Times

 

"His beat is economical and clear, and he got some splendid playing from the orchestra. The highlight of the evening was a near stupefying performance of Copland's Organ Symphony--- much better, in fact, than the one extant recording of it [by Leonard Bernstein] "

                                                                                           The New York Daily News

 

"As Copland wrote it [Symphony for Organ and Orchestra], and these players delivered it, this is a manifesto that all but tears the walls down. It was, in more than one sense, a blast! These people certainly made beautiful music together; it was on the forceful side of beautiful, out of proportion to their numbers or age or anything else."

                                                                                                        The Boston Globe

 

"Baker is recognized as one of the most promising young conductors in the country."

                                                                                                   The Arts Journal, NC

 

"Baker is a conductor of economic gesture and clear intentions. He knows exactly what he is after and how to achieve it, keeping an eye on the large design without slighting the details. His own and the orchestra's abilities were further demonstrated in concise, well-tailored accounts of Wagner's Rienzi Overture and Schubert's Symphony No.5."

                                                                                     Musical America - May 1984

 

"Baker got the Bach Society Orchestra to make the kind of resonant attacks that one associates only with a highly sophisticated kind of orchestral technique."

                                                                                                        The Boston Globe

"We are deeply indebted to the orchestra and to its conductor Robert Hart Baker for making available a work [Bloch Symphony in C-sharp minor] that knowledgeable listeners have been clamoring to hear for years. His conception of the piece is quite convincing."

                                                                         Fanfare, Vol.9, No.3 - January 1986

"A smooth controlled style of conducting is his strongest talent."

                                                                                 Chattanooga News-Free Press

 

"The St. Louis Philharmonic has struck gold in Robert Hart Baker."

                                                                                         St. Louis Globe-Democrat

 

"Robert Hart Baker's stable leadership has transformed the [St. Louis] Philharmonic into an ensemble worthy of a serious listener's attention...His conducting technique is a model of clarity and precision. "

                                                                                              St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

"Baker's conducting technique is a model of clarity and precision. Whatever went on in rehearsal, however, must have really been something to behold."

                                                               St. Louis Post-Dispatch - March 17, 1986

 

"The production of La Boheme was in every way a success, with fine performances from New York [City] Opera as well as Asheville filling the hall with uniformly superb Singing. And the Asheville Symphony, under the direction of Robert Hart Baker, fully realized the sparkling beauty of Puccini's score."

                                                    The Asheville Citizen-Times - January 26, 2000

 

"Music director Robert Hart Baker demonstrated again that he has the fine ability to give shape to the works he conducts. All of his readings were imaginative and he certainly was successful in getting the players to perform."

                                                                                              Asheville Citizen-Times

"The Asheville Symphony has strengths everywhere. Chief among them may be its disciplined but highly expressive conductor, whose every tempo seemed perfect."

                                                                                                    The Gaffney Ledger

 

"Conductor Robert Hart Baker and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra gave one of their finest performances when they played Mahler's Symphony No.4. Baker and his forces were able to surmount the technical difficulties of the piece with finesse and yet have reserves to deliver the emotional wallop of Mahler's music to the large audience that seemed quite moved. Baker's view of the symphony was a spacious one, lingering over the rusticity of the folk-elements but finding tautness for the intense climaxes."

                                                           Asheville Citizen Times - February 11, 1991

 

"Baker's thorough immersion in the style and meaning of the work [Mahler's Symphony No. 2] enabled him to produce a performance that had shape, cogency and spiritual uplift."

                                                                                              Asheville Citizen-Times

 

"[Baker] delivered floods of musical excitement in the final ASO concert for the season. Baker paced the performance [of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony] to achieve the maximum rugged strength and electric tension complemented by moments of persuasive warmth and sweetness."

                                                          The Asheville Citizen-Times - April 23, 1990

 

"Robert Hart Baker glided into his third York Symphony season on strings of silk."

                                                                                                               York Dispatch

TESTIMONIALS

"Your recording of Papa Bloch's 1st Symphony is GREAT! I hadn't heard the music since my childhood and the effect was fantastic! All the themes came back and move me each time I listen to the music."

      Lucienne Bloch Dimitreff (daughter of Ernest Bloch) - November 20, 1985

"Robert is a most capable conductor, he is always aware of all the facets of the music making. He has a vast musical and general culture and has a desire and talent for musical research which he successfully incorporates later on in performance. "

                 Christian Badea (staff conductor) Metropolitan Opera - May 5, 1984

 

"[Mr. Baker is] a truly wonderful musician. He has warmth and sensitivity, combined with a very good stick technique. His command of the orchestra is excellent and he generates a great deal of respect and enthusiasm from the members."

                                                 Daniel Heifetz (concert violinist) - March 26, 1984

 

"Baker directs music with passion, pain"

"Nearly 200 years ago, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the music which embodies so much of the passion and pain the world has experienced this past week. Last night, for those who were fortunate enough to have heard the performance of the Beethoven "Fifth Symphony" by the Asheville Symphony under the direction of Robert Hart Baker, numerous facets of that passion and pain were dramatically crystallized. The concert was electrifying from beginning to end but the "Fifth Symphony," performed as it was with breathtaking but magnificently controlled energy and emotion, served to impart and to encourage an attitude of reasoned, rational passion. The evening's performance, dedicated to those thousands suffering from this week's tragedy, was indeed a stunning musical projection of Beethoven's own resolution: "I will grapple with Fate; it will not overcome me." Every beat of this music was symbolic of a universal heartbeat quickened by a determination to alleviate pain and suffering throughout the world without being overcome by the struggle. The Asheville Symphony has launched its 2001-2002 season with a renewed and intensely charged musicality. Our gratitude to all involved."

                                                      Asheville Citizen Times - September 20, 2001
    Dr. Joyce R. Dorr (former professor and Music Dept. Chair) UNC-Asheville

"On June 12, 2003, I collaborated as violin soloist with Maestro Robert Hart Baker, both as guests, with the Vratza State Philharmonic in Bulgaria. On the program, the "Roman Carnival Overture" of Berlioz, the "Little Violin Concerto" of Tchaikovsky (Serenade Melancolique, Melody in E-flat, and Valse-Scherzo), and the Symphony No.1 of Brahms. We worked together for the dress rehearsal and concert. Working with Maestro Baker and the outstanding, well-prepared orchestra was for me a great joy. Beyond his great earnestness and most intensive internal understanding of the musical processes, the unmistakable sound and the personal style in shaping the musical form impressed in his interpretation of the majestic first symphony of Brahms. I wish for my dear colleague Maestro Baker, whose phenomenal capacities to accompany and whose sensitivity to intentions of musical interpretation in the capricious Tchaikovsky pieces were impressively manifested in sound, much success and artistic fulfillment."

                                                                                Essen Conservatory - Germany
                                                                            Professor Vesselin Paraschkevov
                                                      (Former Concertmaster, Vienna Philharmonic)