Richard Egarr – historic keyboards

Photo: Marco Borggreve

The English harpsichordist and conductor, Richard Egarr, was as a boy chorister at York Minster, a position that included complete musical training. He learned piano and organ, studying both at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester from age 13. He earned his diploma in organ playing at 16 and became an organ scholar at Manchester Cathedral, then at Clare College Oxford (or Clare College Cambridge). The position of organ scholar – there are generally two at any one time – is part of the tradition of university chapel choirs in the major British universities. An organ scholar receives a full scholarship to the College and participates in daily services with the College chapel choir throughout the academic year.

Richard Egarr began playing harpsichord while at Oxford, and gained his bachelor of music degree in harpsichord in 1986. He pursued studies in that instrument with David Roblou at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and in private studies with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam, the later on a scholarship from the Dutch government. The study with Leonhardt further inspired his work in the field of historical performance.In 1988 he entered the International C.P.E. Bach Fortepiano-Clavichord-Harpsichord Competition in Hamburg, Germany, winning first prize.

Richard Egarr began appearing as a harpsichord soloist and in 1991 became the harpsichordist of London Baroque, one of the leading early music ensembles. He held that position until 1995, then became Director of the Academy of the Begijnhof, Amsterdam. During the 1990’s his career as a harpsichordist quickly developed, and he began to get attention as a conductor. He has appeared regularly in leading music festivals in Europe, the USA, and Japan. He has begun conducting The Hanover Band, appearing with it live on BBC Radio 3 from the 1999 Warwick Festival, and in an all-Bach program at the Dieppe Early Music Festival, also in 1999.

Richard Egarr is one of the most versatile musicians around. He has worked with all types of keyboards and performed repertoire ranging from 15th-century organ intabulations to Dussek and Chopin on early pianos, to Alban Berg and Maxwell Davies on modern piano. He is in great demand as a soloist and chamber musician, as well as a conductor.

As a conductor, Richard Egarr has presented a wide range of repertoire, from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) to John Taverner’s Ikon of Light. He has worked with specialised ensembles and modern orchestras alike, such as the Tafelmusik Toronto, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Dutch Radio Chamber Orchestra. Recent guest productions include Georg Frideric Handel’s Esther, Acis & Galatea, Alcina and L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, many performances of the Messiah, and dramatic G.F. Handel Opera arias with soprano Emma Bell and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Haydn’s The Creation, Purcell’s Fairy Queen, Bach’s B minor Mass (BWV 232) and Georg Philipp Telemann’s St Matthew Passion, and Leopold Stokowski arrangements with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He will be directing Bach’s Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in 2007 with the Nederlandse Bachvereniging, and, in a staged version, at Glyndebourne. He will also conduct the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Flemish Radio Symphony Orchestra (in Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique).

Richard Egarr is director of the Amsterdam based Academy of the Begijnhof. In April 2006 he was appointed as Christopher Hogwood’s successor as Music Director of The Academy of Ancient Music, taking effect from the 2006-2007 season.

As soloist, Richard Egarr has performed extensively in the major music festivals throughout Europe and Japan; his 2006 solo tour in the USA with J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) received great critical acclaim. He has appeared many times as orchestral soloist with the Dutch Radio Chamber Orchestra, with the Orchestra of the 18th Century as well as with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble.

In chamber music, Richard Egarr forms an ‘unequalled duo for violin and keyboard’ (Gramophone) with violinist Andrew Manze. They have toured Europe and North-America with music from the Stylus Phantasticus and late Baroque. They have recently turned to later repertoire with performances of Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Hubert Parry.

Richard Egarr was also lector at the Amsterdam Conservatorium and he is a member of the Board of the Stichting Sweelinck Collectie.

From its start, Richard Egarr has been a patron of the Geelvinck Fortepiano Festival.

Richard Egarr lives in Amsterdam and he is married to Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya.

Richard Egarr & Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya, photo: Marco Borggreve

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale

Richard Egarr brings a joyful sense of adventure and a keen, enquiring mind to all his music-making – whether conducting, directing from the keyboard, giving recitals, playing chamber-music, and indeed talking about music at every opportunity.

Egarr joined Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale as Music Director in August 2020, having been Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music for 15 years.  He is also Principal Guest of the Residentie Orkest and Artistic Partner of the St Paul Chamber and was Associate Artist with the Scottish Chamber 2011-2017.

Egarr straddles the worlds of historically-informed and modern symphonic performance and has conducted many leading symphony orchestras, notably the London Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw and Philadelphia orchestras.  In 23/24 his guest conducting includes Haydn’s Creation with Gothenburg Symphony, Schumann 2 with the City of Birmingham Symphony, Bach B minor Mass with the Scottish Chamber, also Handel’s Messiah and a CD of French repertoire with the Orquesta Sinfonica Castilla y Leon, and play-directing Haydn’s Piano Concerto with Swedish Chamber. He conducts repertoire ranging from Gabrieli to Schubert 9 to Tippett and Ives with St Paul Chamber, and Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Beethoven 9 with the Residentie Orkest.  With Philharmonia Baroque, plans include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and works by Errollyn Wallen and Tarik O’Regan alongside core baroque repertoire.

As half of Duo Pleyel, Egarr regularly plays four-hands repertoire with his wife Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya; they have released 3 acclaimed albums on Linn – Mozart/JC Bach, Dussek and Schubert – with a Beethoven disc due for release in 2023. Egarr regularly gives solo harpsichord recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall; his extensive discography on Harmonia Mundi includes solo keyboard works by Bach, Handel, Mozart and Couperin, and latterly discs for Linn Records of Byrd and Sweelinck. 

Egarr’s long list of recordings with the Academy of Ancient Music includes several award-winning Handel discs (2007 Gramophone Award, 2009 MIDEM and Edison awards) and both JS Bach’s Passions. His world premiere recording on AAM Records of Dussek’s Messe Solemnelle won the Gramophone Best Choral Recording 2021.  

Egarr trained as a choirboy at York Minster, at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, and as organ scholar at Clare College Cambridge. His studies with Gustav and Marie Leonhardt further inspired his work in the field of historical performance. He taught for many years at the Amsterdam Conservatoire and was Visiting Professor at the Juilliard School for over 10 years.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) is sharing news that our current Music Director Richard Egarr has decided to conclude his term at the end of the 2023/24 season. Richard has a young family who are based in Amsterdam. This decision allows him to spend more time conducting in Europe, closer to his family.

Source: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale