Introducing Robin O’Neill, The Conductor of ‘The Cool Web’

Robin O'Neill conducting

Robin O’Neill at the Wimbledon festival

As the time for the actual performance of the Oratorio grows near, we want to celebrate the people involved with the first performance of this new work.

Robin O’Neill has been part of this project from the very beginning.

Robin knew of Jools’ music from his sound-track to The Door, a short film by Andrew Steggall,



Charles Dance in 'The Door'

Andrew with Charles Dance, who starred in ‘The Door’

who directed The Soldier’s Tale at the Old Vic, (stay with me here)


The Soldier's Tale

The Soldier’s Tale at the Old Vic

for which Robin directed the music.

Commenting on Robin O’Neill’s work as music director of The Soldier’s Tale (in a European/Iraqi collaboration which took him to Baghdad in Sept 2005 and then on a two week run at the Old Vic Theatre) the late Sir Charles Mackerras said “I would like to congratulate Robin O’Neill on his marvellous conducting of the whole ensemble, whether European or Iraqi. I particularly admired the fact that a great deal of the Stravinsky seemed to be played from memory. This in itself is a tremendous feat!”

Iraqi musicians at The Old Vic

Iraqi musicians in The Soldier’s Tale

We met to discuss the project over lunch in London at the point where we had a rough idea of the libretto, but had written none of the music at all. Robin’s enthusiasm and genuine interest was one of the spurs which turned a good idea into a real piece of work.

Since then he has stayed faithfully with it, consulting on the score, pointing us in the direction of the right orchestra, Endymion, and the Philharmonia Voices, whose work he knows through his own long association with them, and now conducting it at Bath Abbey eighteen months  after our first meeting.

Festival Hall, London

The Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall

In the past few seasons Robin O’Neill has conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus (with whom he gave the orchestra’s first performance in London’s newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall), London Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Nordic Chamber Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, Bogota Philharmonic, Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa Japan, Orchestra Cittaperta and the Orchestras of the Guildhall School of Music, Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, where he is professor of conducting.

Robin O’Neill’s conducting has been praised for it’s balance of intellectual rigour, immaculate line and visceral excitement. A performance of the Sibelius 7th Symphony prompted one reviewer to note that “he obtained a rock-like stability to the tonal structure that underpins the disturbances, thereby creating a symphonic statement both powerful and concise.”

Matthew Rye in the Daily Telegraph has commented: “Robin O’Neill conducted them (London Philharmonic) in sleek, suave performances where phrases were ideally shaped and balance nigh perfect” and the Financial Times has commented that: “Robin O’Neill conducted the brilliant Philharmonia Orchestra in faultless up-tempo style.”


Stephan Kovacevich

Robin O’Neill has collaborated with musicians such as Mikhail Pletnev, Boris Berezovsky, Mitsuko Uchida, Christoph Eschenbach, Pascal Roge, Stephen Kovacevich, Alexander Madzar, Pinchas Zuckerman, Salvatore Accardo, Isabelle Faust, Gautier Capucon, Michael Collins, Alina Ibragimova, the Lars Jansson Jazz Trio and actors such as Jeremy Irons, Julian Glover, Paul McGann and Hugh Dancy. He has also performed by invitation for His Royal Highness Prince Charles the Prince of Wales.

Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons, who read the soldier in the first production of ‘The Soldier’s Tale’ Andrew Steggall directed at the Old Vic

Robin O’Neill regularly broadcasts on the BBC and has also had concerts broadcast on Swedish Radio, South African Radio and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. He has made two CDs with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra on the Hyperion Label.

In his parallel career, Robin O’Neill is principal bassoonist with the Philharmonia Orchestra and has held the same position with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the English Chamber Orchestra. He is a member of London Winds and the Gaudier Ensemble.

He is a Grammy nominated recording artist and has recorded virtually the whole of the core chamber music repertoire with more than 40 CDs to his name on labels such as Hyperion, Chandos, Decca and Philips.

Robin O’Neill is an Honorary Associate and Visiting Professor of Bassoon at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He has coached bassoon and wind sections for several summer festivals including Canton International Summer Music Orchestra in China, the Lindenbaum Festival in South Korea and the Adam Mickiewicz Iculture Orchestra in Poland.

And now, what an immense privilege it is to have him shaping and conducting the first performance of The Cool Web.

Don’t miss it.

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