Robert Fokkens is a South African composer based in the UK. His work explores a range of influences from traditional South African music to 20th- and 21st-century experimental music, via jazz, electronic dance music and the classical canon, creating a music characterised by twisted cycles, rhythmic energy, and microtonal inflections. The Times has described his work as being “fascinating”, “imaginatively orchestrated” and having its “own engaging quirkiness”.
Robert works frequently with performers in a collaborative relationship, and 2018 sees a number of performances by some of his closest creative partners. Retorica (Harriet Mackenzie and Philippa Mo, violins) will premiere Dances and Chorales for two violins and electronics in Cardiff, and New York-based pianist Kathleen Tagg will present a new work for piano and electronics. In March, The Fidelio Trio performs Mammals of Southern Africa for New Music Dublin and the Cardiff event of the Contemporary Music for All National Festival, the Signum Quartet give the South African premiere of glimpses of a half-forgotten future for the Cape Town Concert Series, and the Stoltz/Martens/Dias trio include two of his works in a concert for Woordfees 2018 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Robert is currently developing a monodrama with Kathleen Ferrier Prize 2010 winner, baritone Njabulo Madlala, for premiere in 2019.
In past seasons, Robert’s work has been performed in major venues in the UK (including the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and Royal Festival Hall), South Africa, Australia, the USA, Japan, and across Europe. He has received commissions from organisations including the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust, Arts Council Ireland, Cape Town Opera, the SAMRO Foundation, and the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival. Performers of his orchestral music include conductors Pierre-André Valade, Gérard Korsten, Kenneth Woods and Tim Murray, and orchestras such as the South African National Youth Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and the English Symphony Orchestra. Other musicians and ensembles who have performed his music include violinist Ernst Kovacic; cellists Alice Neary, Oliver Coates and Robin Michael; singers Ian Partridge, Claire Booth, Sarah Dacey and Patricia Rozario; flautist Carla Rees and ensembles such as the Carducci and Capriccio Quartets, rarescale, New Juilliard Ensemble, EXAUDI, juice vocal trio, Tête à Tête Opera, and Chroma,
His music is published by Composers Edition and Tetractys Publishing, and his debut CD of chamber music – Tracing Lines – is available on the Métier label. The violin concerto An Eventful Morning Near East London was released on Nimbus in 2017, garnering a range of excellent reviews, BBC Music Magazine describing it as “exquisitely crafted…an arresting work”. His music has also been released on Herald, Prima Facie, TUTL and Foundry Records, and his work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, Swedish Radio P2, Portuguese Radio Antena 2, and various South African radio stations.
Robert is currently Senior Lecturer in composition at Cardiff University, and regularly gives masterclasses and presentations on his work at other institutions in the UK, Ireland and South Africa. He was composer-in-residence for the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival 2017, NewMusicSA Indabas in 2008 and 2015, and for the South African National Youth Orchestra Courses in 2005 and 2013. He studied at the University of Cape Town and at the Royal Academy of Music, also holding the Manson Fellowship at the RAM in 2001-2002. He completed his PhD at the University of Southampton in 2007, where he was supervised by Michael Finnissy.
Robert is also an experienced conductor, currently working as director and conductor of the Cardiff University Contemporary Music Group. With this ensemble he is working on a project performing contemporary Welsh choral music, and together they will record a CD of this work for the Ty Cerdd label in 2018. In 2014 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.February 2018