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The songs of Albert Roussel and André Caplet

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Albert Roussel (1869 - 1937) and André Caplet (1878 - 1925), two very northern French composers, were central figures in the musical life of the first quarter of the twentieth century in France. Though their individual styles are markedly different, each of them produced a sizeable output of songs exploring a wide range of musico-poetic expression from knockabout humour to extreme pathos, and always displaying a great love of life!  In many ways firmly situated in the French impressionist tradition, they both also explore idiosyncratic innovative compositional techniques, but their substantial legacies as song-composers still seem to be somewhat overshadowed by the works of their more famous compatriots, hence my enthusiasm for offering you samples from these substantial legacies in this lecture.


Robin Bowman studied as a musicologist at King’s College London under Thurston Dart from 1966 to 1971, while also pursing performance studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. From 1973 to 1985 he was a music lecturer at the University of Southampton. He also trained as a Lied-accompanist under Walther Gruner and worked as assistant to Pierre Bernac, the singer for whom Poulenc wrote more than half of his songs, between 1970 and Bernac’s death ten years later.  This led to his appointment as the principal French vocal repertoire teacher at the Guildhall School from 1973 and French consultant for the National Opera Studio from

its establishment in 1978, both posts held until retirement in 2008. 


From 1985 to 1997 Robin was Head of Academic Studies at Guildhall, then Head of Vocal Studies until 2008, during which years he was much in demand as an overall external examiner at a number of British music colleges, including Trinity College of Music, London, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Royal College of Music. He has just completed a four-year stint as specialist external assessor to the vocal studies department at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.


He also has experience of being on international juries for competitions and concours in both vocal and keyboard fields, as well as adjudicating for vocal and collaborative piano competitions in British conservatoires and higher education institutions, and was a panel member for the 2013 Kathleen Ferrier Competition. During his career he calculates that he has conducted, or been a member of, at least 15,000 solo vocal auditions and performance examinations.


His international career as an accompanist and chamber-music pianist involved partnerships with Gérard Souzay, Dawn Upshaw and Henry Herford, among others. Among his discography, his two-volume CD of songs by Charles Ives with Herford gained a British Music Retailers Association Award, and around ten years later a 2001 recording of songs by Percy Turnbull with Nancy Argenta and Roderick Williams gained a five-star review in the BBC Music Magazine.


Robin has also had long associations with a range of British and European summer schools.


Robin has also taught for the University of Auckland, taught and performed extensively in Japan, and been involved in short courses and master-classes in England, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Korea. In recent years Robin has given one or two masterclasses most years for the Oxford Lieder Festival in techniques for audition to music colleges at undergraduate and postgraduate level. 


Robin retired from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2008 and took up a post as Coordinator of the volunteers at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. At the same time he was appointed a visiting tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire, giving weekly postgraduate repertoire classes and extensive individual coaching. In 2016, Robin retired from Woodbrooke and increased his commitment to Birmingham Conservatoire.

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