Arts and Entertainment

Alumni, students gather to honor Penn State Distinguished Professor Robert Nairn

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Current and alumni members of the School of Music's double bass studio will present a concert in tribute to the Penn State career of Distinguished Professor Robert Nairn at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, in Esber Recital Hall. The bassists will be assisted by collaborative pianist Cecilia Sakong. Admission is free.


Members of the Penn State Bass Studio from past and present

  • Bass, bass, bass, bass, bass, and bass - L’Orchestre de Contrebasses

Justin Dorsey, ’14 B.M.

  • Allegro moderato (from Double Bass Concerto in D Major) - Johann Baptist Vanhal

Ian Saunders, ’12 M.M.

  • Seiza - Fernando Millet

Ron Lange, ’10 B.M.

  • Selections from the Jewish Fake Book

Members of the Penn State Bass Studio from past and present

  • Andante espressivo (from Quartet for Double Bass) - Joseph Lauber

Kevin Huhn, ’14 M.M.

  • Edge - Peter Askim

Ian Saunders, ’12 M.M.

  • Iberique Peninsulaire - Francois Rabbath

Justin Dorsey and Friends; Tyler Honsel, ’11 B.M.

  • Seven Double Bass Duets - David Anderson

Members of the Penn State Bass Studio from past and present

  • Strauss in the Doghouse (from Suite and Low) ♦ Daryl Runswick

Nairn teaches double bass, excerpt classes, bass ensembles, coaches chamber music, and directs the University's Baroque Ensemble. A native of Australia, he received his bachelor’s degree from the Canberra School of Music and a postgraduate diploma from the Berlin Musikhochschule, courtesy of a two-year DAAD German Government Scholarship. He has lived and worked in Germany, England, Australia, and the United States.

His teachers have included Klaus Stoll, Tom Martin and Max McBride. He has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; the London Philharmonic; the English, Scottish and Australian chamber orchestras; the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Oslo Philharmonic; Gothenberg Symphony; Baltimore Symphony; Halle Orchestra; the London Sinfonietta; and the Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne symphony orchestras.

A specialist in historical performance, Nairn has served as principal bassist with Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society since 2003, and principal of the Boston Early Music Festival. He has performed with Concerto Caledonia, the Aulos Ensemble, Rebel, the Washington Bach Consort, the English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He has also performed regularly for eight years in London as a member of Florilegium.

Nairn also serves on the historical performance faculty at the Juilliard School and is a member of Juilliard Baroque. In 2009, he received the International Society of Bassist’s (ISB) “Special Recognition Award for Historically Informed Performance.” His recording of Mozart’s concert aria “Per Questra Bell Mano” with the Handel and Haydn Society and bass Eric Owens has garnered substantial critical acclaim; Gramophone magazine called it “all one could wish for,” and Classic FM magazine selected it as its “Record of the Month.”

He has appeared at numerous international festivals, including events in Salzburg, Baden-Baden, Aldeburgh, Glyndebourne, Schleswig-Holstein, and the London ‘Proms’ under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Mazur, Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Maris Jansons, Sir Roger Norrington, Sir Charles Mackeras, Christoph Eschenbach, Lorin Maazel, Kent Nagano, and Franz Brüggen. He has also performed in the world’s most famous concert venues: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw, La Scala, Le Châtelet, Leningrad, Berlin, Teatro Colôn, Konzerthaus, Musikverein (Vienna), and the Sydney Opera House.

Nairn has commissioned and premiered more than 40 newly commissioned works for solo double bass and chamber groups, and he has worked extensively with the London Sinfonietta, Gruppe Neue Musik Berlin, Australysis, the Music Theatre of Wales, and the Sydney Alpha Ensemble. He premiered a new concerto by Barry Conyngham in 2009, and other current commissions include works by Elena Kats Chernin, Michael Berkeley and Peter Askim. In 2008, he was awarded a Howard Foundation Fellowship to continue commissioning new works by Australian composers. Two CD’s featuring of works by Australian composers will be released in 2016.

As a soloist, he has performed concerti with the Gruppe Neue Musik (Berlin), the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Darwin and Adelaide symphony orchestras (including Bottesini's "Passiona Amoroso" with Gary Karr). In addition, he has given solo recitals in Europe, Scandinavia, China, United States and Australia.

He served as president of the International Society of Bassists in 2009-10 and hosted the ISB convention at Penn State in 2009, an event that brought together more than 1,300 musicians from 37 countries for six days.

Robert Nairn, double bass Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated April 10, 2017