Conductor • Keyboards
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Keyboardist and conductor Richard Egarr has been a figure of unusual versatility on the early music scene. He plays keyboards of various kinds, concentrating on the harpsichord, and has conducted both early music ensembles and modern symphony orchestras.
Egarr was born on August 7, 1963, in Lincoln in England's East Midlands. His first musical training came as a chorister at York Minster Cathedral, and he went on to study piano and organ at Chetham's School of Music. After earning his diploma as an organist at 16, Egarr became an organ scholar -- a scholarship position that entails responsibilities in the performance of daily church services -- at Manchester Cathedral and then at Clare College, Oxford. He also took harpsichord courses at Oxford and earned his degree as a harpsichordist in 1986. Egarr went on for further studies with David Roblou at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and then for private lessons in Amsterdam with the famed harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt. Well situated to prosper during the expansion of Baroque music in the 1990s, Egarr landed a position as harpsichordist of the London Baroque ensemble, and then in 1995, landed a position as director of Amsterdam's Academy of the Begijnhof. Beginning in the late 1990s, he often conducted the Hanover Band ensemble.
With flourishing careers as both keyboardist and conductor, Egarr was named director of the Academy of Ancient Music, succeeding longtime director Christopher Hogwood, in 2006. He announced plans to step down from that position in 2022. In the meantime, he has conducted a wide variety of other groups and performances, including the ensembles Tafelmusik and the Handel and Haydn Society, modern-instrument groups including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and a unique staged version of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, at England's Glyndebourne Festival in 2007. In 2019, he was named music director of San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Egarr has concertized worldwide on the harpsichord and is also one half of an acclaimed Baroque duo with violinist Andrew Manze.
Egarr has made notable recordings as both harpsichordist and conductor starting in the early 1990s. Beginning in 1994, he made one of the few recording cycles of the complete keyboard works of Johann Jakob Froberger. Many of his early recordings appeared on the Globe Classics label; since 2000, he has recorded for Harmonia Mundi. In the late 2010s, he also recorded for the Linn label; his releases there include a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, and in 2019, he issued an album of keyboard music by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck.