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Below  are examples of topics that might interest your music society, music school conducting class, or symphony talk program. Please contact Paul to discuss your specific needs. For a list of upcoming engagements, please click here.

The Limits of Interpretation

Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) was born in London (England) to a Polish father and an Irish mother. He trained as an organist then went on to build the Philadelphia Orchestra into one of the world’s most celebrated orchestras.

Stokowski was widely admired for his ability to get any sound he wanted from an orchestra. He invented the ‘free-bowing’ technique that produced a richer and more sustained string sound. He made many orchestral transcriptions of organ works by Bach and made his own version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition because he felt the famous Ravel version was “too French.” He also made extensive changes in the standard repertoire scores he conducted.

Paul Robinson recently examined some of Stokowski’s conducting scores in the Stokowski Collection at the University of Pennsylvania and in this lecture he discusses some of Stokowski’s alterations to works by Beethoven (Symphony No. 3), Brahms (Symphony No. 1) and Tchaikovsky (Romeo and Juliet), with a view to answering the question: “Did Stokowski enhance these works by making such alterations or did he go well beyond what is appropriate for any conductor in the name of interpretation?”


The Mahler Symphonies

Alma Maria Schindler was married to Mahler for several years, and as a trained musician and composer herself, she had a special insight into her husband’s creative process. Paul Robinson argues that while she did a great deal to promote his legacy, she sometimes distorted or falsified the historical record - even to the point of confusing the issue of how certain works are to be performed.


How Do They Do It

Conducting an orchestra is basically a technical skill which can be taught. There is also, however, a less clear-cut - even mysterious - component to the ‘art’ of the conductor. In this lecture, Paul Robinson tries to separate the various components that figure in the making of a great conductor. The talk includes examples from conductors as diverse as Toscanini, Furtwängler, Karajan, Stokowski and Gergiev.


What Can Be Learned

The technology available to ‘film’ concerts has improved dramatically over the past twenty years. We can now study virtually all the great conductors in a wide repertoire on film. In this lecture, Paul Robinson makes use of such films to comment on the work of conductors from Nikisch and Weingartner, through Toscanini and Karajan, to Gergiev and Abbado.



Lecture 1: Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic
The keys to their success together in concerts and recordings (with filmed excerpts of music by Brahms, Beethoven and Sibelius). How Karajan’s determination to have a female clarinetist in the Berlin Philharmonic destroyed his relationship with the orchestra.

Lecture 2: Karajan in the Opera House
Karajan was an electrifying opera conductor and often supervised the stage direction and lighting as well (with filmed excerpts from Puccini’s La Bohème, Verdi’s Il Trovatore and slides and audio recordings from works by Wagner).

Lecture 3: Karajan headed the Vienna State Opera for eight tempestuous years.
Karajan brought the house back togreatness but was ultimately forced to leave. What happened?
Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic. Throughout his life Karajan had a special relationship with this remarkable orchestra (with filmed excerpts of music by Johann Strauss and Bruckner).

Lecture 4: Karajan’s Nazi Past
Karajan joined the Nazi Party to further his career. But how active was he in politics? Many conductors left Germany rather than accept anti-semitism and war-mongering. But Karajan (and Furtwängler) stayed until the end. Was it blind ambition or misguided loyalties? What is the ultimate verdict?


Author, Conductor and Broadcaster

Paul E. Robinson studied at the University of Toronto and the Salzburg Mozarteum. He was a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong (1966-69) and also taught at the State University of New York and the University of Toronto. For more than twenty years (1972-92) he was music director at Canada’s foremost educational radio service, CJRT-FM in Toronto, and conductor of its radio orchestra. He conducted a wide variety of repertoire including the Canadian premiere of Sibelius’ Kullervo Symphony. He has guest conducted in France, Hungary, Mexico, Slovakia, and Venezuela, and throughout the United States and Canada. He is the author of a series of books under the title The Art of the Conductor, with individual volumes on Karajan, Solti, Stokowski, and Bernstein. The revised and updated edition of the Stokowski book will be published later this year. Robinson has recorded all the Vivaldi cello concertos with Ofra Harnoy for RCA Victor and several symphonies by Franz Lachner for the Marco Polo label. Robinson’s reviews and articles appear regularly in Canada’s leading classical music magazine La Scena Musicale, and on its highly acclaimed website His blogs appear on his own website








Lecturer & Speaker

Paul E. Robinson is a well-known lecturer and speaker. To view a partial list of lectures and spoken word presentations over the course of his career as a professor, musician, broadcaster and author, click here.