Speaking Engagements

paul2In the course of his career as a broadcaster, author, conductor, and teacher, Paul Robinson has given innumerable talks and lectures on a wide variety of musical subjects in many different venues.

Past appearances and Topics

Guest Speaker

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Talks on various musical subjects including an introduction to Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and a series of four lectures on The Orchestra and Orchestral Music.

Canadian Opera Company
Talks on operatic topics

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
An introduction to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus (Ohio)
A lecture on Leonard Bernstein as part of a symposium titled Bernstein and Plato: A Serenade

University of Western Ontario
A lecture called Music on the Radio and the Free-Trade Issue

Toronto Mozart Society
Board Member and frequent guest speaker; e.g., Mozart’s Minuets


Courses on aesthetics
University of Hong Kong
StateUniversity of New York at Fredonia

Courses on music appreciation
Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto

Courses on aesthetics, music appreciation and the history of the orchestra
University of Hong Kong

Conducting Workshops
Ontario Federation of Symphony Orchestras (OFSO)
Royal Conservatory of Music


Numerous series of programs over a twenty-year period on conductors,
composers and other musical subjects

Radio Hong Kong
Numerous features on musical subjects

CBC Radio
Numerous features on musical subjects for the program Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. Topics included Mozart as Social Critic and  a comparison of the Solti and Karajan recordings of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.

Engaging Paul as a Guest Speaker

Below are examples of guest lecture topics that might interest your music society, music school conducting class, or symphony talk program. Please contact Paul to discuss your organization’s specific needs.


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, Furtwangler, 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

Paul examines the keys to their success together in concerts and recordings (with filmed excerpts of music by Brahms, Beethoven and Sibelius), and 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 Boheme,” Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” and slides and audio recordings from works by Wagner).

Lecture 3: Karajan in Vienna

Karajan was head of the Vienna State Opera for eight tempestuous years. He brought the house back to greatness but was ultimately forced to leave. What happened? How did Karajan manage to forge and maintain a life-long relationship with the remarkable Vienna Philharmonic 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 Furtwangler) stayed until the end. Was it blind ambition or misguided loyalties? What is the ultimate verdict?

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