Opera Coach | Accompanist
Robin Bowman’s international career as an accompanist and chamber-music pianist spans more than thirty years; he has numbered Gérard Souzay, Dawn Upshaw, Henry Herford, Lynne Dawson, Penelope Mackay, Richard Jackson and Katarina Jovanovic among his many performing partnerships. His favourite press notice, for a Wigmore Hall recital with Gérard Souzay, tells of ‘Robin Bowman’s discreetly supportive and infinitely imaginative accompaniments’.
He was a coach for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and French Consultant for the London National Opera Studio since its inception in the mid-1970s. Educated initially as a musicologist under Thurston Dart and then as a Lied-accompanist under Walther Gruner, Robin gained his unique depth of experience in French vocal repertoire from work as assistant to Pierre Bernac, the great French baritone and authority on singing in French for whom Poulenc wrote more than half of his songs. Much of this experience took place at the Académie Internationale de Musique Maurice Ravel, a summer school where latterly, during an association spanning a quarter of a century, he also organised additionally a piano accompaniment course. For twelve years he gave summer classes at the Académie Internationale d’Eté de Nice, and continues working for two British Summer Schools – the Abingdon Solo Singing School of which he is co-director, and Oxenfoord International, and has taught and performed extensively in Japan. He has experience as an international jury member, including as jury president, for competitions and concours in both vocal and keyboard fields.
Robin’s principal piano teachers were Thomas Rajna and Alan Rowlands, the latter sharing with Robin many of his insights as an enthusiast for – and later, teacher of – Alexander Technique. Robin’s own technical insights as performer and teacher draw additionally on concepts from Feldenkrais and Trager techniques, educational kinesiology, autogenics, and Inner Game principles. Often as a result of having worked with him in vocal repertoire classes, many of the Guildhall School’s postgraduate accompanying course students then chose to take some of their principal study lessons with him. He still finds time for a small number of chamber concerts with instrumentalists as well as with singers.
From 1971 until 2008 Robin Bowman taught French vocal repertoire at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and at the London National Opera Studio from its inception a few years later. His numerous broadcasts and his discography as accompanist consist mainly of English language and French language repertoire – in particular a two-volume CD of songs by Charles Ives with the baritone Henry Herford which gained a British Music Retailers Association Award. An English song recording with Nancy Argenta and Roderick Williams was issued in 2001 and gained a five-star review in the BBC Music Magazine. Partnering Henry Herford when the latter won first prize in the International American Music Competition at Carnegie Hall, New York, opened up an extensive American dimension to Robin’s work, including recordings, broadcasts and teaching at Tanglewood. As a teacher, Robin is interested in exploring and cultivating the sources of imaginative interpretation for singers and pianists, about which he has written in the ‘style and interpretation for singing teachers’ section of the Incorporated Society of Musicians/University of Reading Music Teaching in Private Practice initiative, and also more extensively in as yet unpublished material compiled during a 2007 term of sabbatical leave granted for this purpose by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, thus being able to give back to tomorrow’s performers the essence of his own decades of experience in imaginative musical performance.