Robert Plane’s career as a solo and chamber clarinettist is rich and varied. Concerto appearances in Europe, Asia and North America have included performances of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in Madrid with the City of London Sinfonia, Beijing with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and in the USA with the Virginia Symphony. A champion of new music as well as the classics, Rob is equally at home performing Christian Jost’s concerto ‘Heart of Darkness’ with the Dortmunder Philharmoniker and Simon Holt’s ‘Centauromachy’ at the 2011 BBC Proms as playing Finzi with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Stanford with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Copland with the London Mozart Players. He has given the world premieres of concertos by Judith Bingham, Diana Burrell, Piers Hellawell and Mark Boden.
Rob has tirelessly pursued a particular passion for British clarinet music in concert and on disc, his Gramophone Award-winning account of Finzi’s Concerto and Gramophone Award-shortlisted Bax Sonatas being just two of a large collection of recordings of works by the great English Romantics. He has performed and recorded with the Gould Piano Trio for thirty years, and their recording of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time to mark the composer’s centenary was hailed by BBC Music Magazine as the ‘finest modern recording’ of this epic masterpiece. He also appears on the Goulds’ recorded cycles of Beethoven and Brahms Trios. They commissioned Huw Watkins to compose ‘Four Fables’ in 2018, in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Corbridge Chamber Music Festival which they direct together in Northumberland.
Rob has explored the clarinet quintet repertoire with a number of the finest string quartets, opening BBC Radio 3’s ‘Brahms Experience’ with a live broadcast from St. George’s Bristol of the Brahms Quintet with the Skampa Quartet. He enjoys a close relationship with the Elias String Quartet, making his debut at the 2023 Schubertiade Schwarzenberg with them in Brahms, and joining them at the Wigmore Hall for Brahms and Bliss. They will give the premiere of Judith Bingham’s new clarinet quintet at the 2024 Three Choirs Festival. He has given concerts in Germany and the USA with the Mandelring Quartet and at home in the UK with, amongst others, the Marmen, Castalian, Maggini, Brodsky, Carducci, Sacconi and Callino Quartets.
Rob is clarinettist of Ensemble 360 and enjoys exploring chamber music of all kinds with them at their home in the Crucible, Sheffield and country-wide. He is also a member of Trio Meister Raro alongside violist Rachel Roberts and pianist Tim Horton, performing a selection of acknowledged masterpieces and fascinating curiosities, with a particular focus on themes of storytelling and fantasy.
Rob has enjoyed a thirty-year long relationship with the Royal Over-Seas League since winning the competition’s Gold Medal in 1992, highlights of which have included a recital tour of New Zealand and a gala performance of Bruch’s Double Concerto with the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka in Colombo as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Always keen to take on a challenge, Rob gave his first performance of Boulez’s epic ‘Dialogue de l’ombre double’ at the Belfast Sonorities Festival in 2018, a work he subsequently revived in Manchester’s Stoller Hall in 2019 and at Cardiff’s WhirlWinds Festival in 2022. Cross-discipline collaborations have included performances with leading South Asian dance specialist Mayuri Boonham. His delving into unjustly neglected works has unearthed concertos by Iain Hamilton, Ruth Gipps and Richard Walthew, which he subsequently recorded at Glasgow City Halls with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins. The resulting disc, ‘Reawakened’, was released in July 2020 by Champs Hill Records.
In February 2023 Rob released a disc of chamber music by Pamela Harrison (the subject of an ongoing research project) on Resonus Classics with the Gould Piano Trio and other collaborators, which was given a special feature in Clarinet & Saxophone Magazine and selected as one of Gramophone Magazine’s “best new classical albums”. His most recent release was ‘Isotonic’ in July 2023, also on Resonus, which features four of his commissions from the past twenty-five years, including the clarinet concertos of Diana Burrell and Mark David Boden, recorded with the BBC Philharmonic. Releases in 2024 will include Pierrot Lunaire with Ensemble 360 and soprano Claire Booth as well as a second volume of the chamber music and songs of Pamela Harrison.
Rob was principal clarinet of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for over twenty years and has held the same position with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Royal Northern Sinfonia. In a distinguished orchestral career, he has performed as guest principal clarinet with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, London Symphony Orchestra and in Aurora Orchestra’s performances of Brahms 1 from memory. He was invited by composer James Newton Howard to be solo clarinettist for the score to the Disney film Maleficent. A respected teacher and educator, he holds the post of Head of Woodwind Performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Photo credit: Sara Porter