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 is also lector at the Amsterdam Conservatorium and member of the Board of the Stichting Sweelinck Collectie.
Richard Egarr has been from its start, patron of the Geelvinck Fortepiano Festival.