After an early childhood in Brazil Robert Cornford was sent to England to continue his education. This culminated in admission to the Royal College of Music where he studied with Bernard Stevens and Peter Racine Fricker (composition), Richard Austin and (privately) Jaques-Louis Monod (conducting), George Thalben-Ball and Harold Darke (organ). In 1960 he began his first professional work with engagements at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as musical director.
His interest in the music of the Second Viennese School led to his appointment as conductor of the Webern Ensemble, which gave frequent concerts in the next few years in London and the provinces (universities of York, Cambridge, Durham etc), with first performances of works by Stockhausen, Wellesz, Cerha and many British composers, including Robin Holloway and Elizabeth Lutyens, as well as most of the music of Webern and Schoenberg for chamber ensemble. At this time he was comissioned to write music for the Globe Shakespeare recordings of Julius Caesar, Twelth Night and Macbeth. In 1964 he joined the English Opera Group to assist Benjamin Britten with the first perfomance of Curlew River. A tour of this piece took him to many festivals, including the Holland Festival. Later that year he began to teach at Morley College, and he taught and conducted concerts at the first Durham Summer School of Contemporary music.
Soon after this he was invited to join John Dankworth’s orchestra as pianist/arranger. Simultaneously, first commissions for incidental music to documentary films, TV jingles and arrangements for LPs began to absorb him and led to his first feature film score – Leon Clore’s “All Neat In Black Stockings”, with Susan George. In 1969 an engagement by the Danish State Radio resulted in three broadcasts of his own music and a public concert in 1970 in Copenhagen. The North German Radio (NDR) also commissioned a 30-minute piece (Coelescence) for their television service in February of that year.
The extent of interest shown in Robert Cornford’s music by European media sources encouraged a temporary move to West Berlin and ultimately to Copenhagen, where he remained until 1979. During this time he was associated with Denmark’s radio as conductor, composer and producer of many music programmes. While there he conducted notable works by Ives, Boulez, Walton and many Scandinavian composers. At the same time, free-lance projects – LPs, documentary films and a Swedish feature film – occupied him.
In 1979 he returned to the UK, while still retaining his European connections (concerts in Norway, Germany and Holland). He is a regular conductor of BBC staff orchestras. His interests include the revival of much twentieth century British music, especially that of Frank Bridge and Peter Warlock.
The above is taken from Bob’s own professional resume and does not mention his many jazz connections – big band compositions and arrangements, and performances with some of the finest musicians playing at the time.