Robert Toft

Professor
Office: TC 114
Phone: (519) 661-2111 x85104
Email: rtoft@uwo.ca


Over the years, Robert Toft (PhD, King’s College, University of London) has pursued a variety of projects within the research-creation paradigm. His scholarly interests focus on the performance practices of singing from the 16th to 19th centuries, and he has given master classes on historical principles of interpretation at leading conservatories and music schools in many countries. Beyond historical performance, Robert works in the fields of recording practice and popular music. His book Recording Classical Music (Routledge) has been included in the list of the 100 Best Music Production Books of All Time (bookauthority.org), and he has published a monograph on 1960s popular music, Hits and Misses: Crafting Top 40 Singles, 1963 – 1971 (Continuum/Bloomsbury).

He has written five books on the history of singing, all of which have been widely praised by performers and scholars. For example, Bel Canto: A Performer’s Guide (Oxford University Press) has been described as “revolutionary” and “a must-read for singers, teachers of singing, vocal coaches, and conductors,” while With Passionate Voice: Re-Creative Singing in Sixteenth-Century England and Italy (Oxford University Press; Japanese edition published by Dowa Shoin) has been noted for its “unique blend of profound, searching scholarship [and] inspired application for teaching and guiding young performers.” In addition, two of his articles have been anthologized in collections of “the most important and influential published articles” that have “shaped” their respective fields (historical performance and popular music).

Robert’s scholarly and practical work has received international awards, including a Distinguished International Visitors Fellowship from the Australian Research Council for work at the Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Sydney and Melbourne). In Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council recognized Robert’s unique combination of scholarship and performance with two research-creation grants: “From Research to Public Performance: Historically-Informed Re-Creative Singing” (2013-16) and “Turning Research into Sound: Re-Creating the Declamatory Vocal Style of the Early 19th Century” (2021-24). He is also a member (Partner Investigator) of the international team working on the Australian Discovery Project “The Shock of the Old: Rediscovering the Sounds of bel canto 1700-1900,” which has received funding of $550,000 from the Australian Research Council.

His production company, Talbot Records, issued its first recording in 2017. Inspired by the intensely dramatic performing styles of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, its main series, Radically Hip, connects modern audiences to the impassioned eloquence of the past. Radically hip artists liberate themselves from the written page to re-create the score, audaciously embracing a powerful form of expression rooted in historical principles.

Reviewers have described the first release, Secret Fires of Love, as “overwhelmingly satisfying” and “of the utmost importance ... this disc ... deserves the attention of every performer ... it could change the way vocal music is performed quite drastically.” The album features Australian tenor, Daniel Thomson, Canadian lutenist/guitarist, Terry McKenna, and German harpsichordist, Thomas Leininger, under Robert’s musical direction, in a program ranging from an anonymous sixteenth-century villanella to cantatas by Albinoni and Conti.

The second release is devoted to piano works by Mozart (K 331, 332, 397) and Beethoven (Op. 2, No. 1) performed by Thomas Leininger on the Faculty’s fortepiano (R. J. Regier, after Anton Walter), with improvised preludes to the three sonatas. Reviewers have said the album is “daring and exciting,” “intelligently and beautifully played,” “a revelation,” and “Leininger ... achieves a narrative suggestive power that appears entirely natural and obvious ... if you want to experience this music in in a completely new way, then this exciting CD is definitely something for you.”

For more information on Talbot Records and Robert’s work in historical performance, visit www.talbotrecords.netwww.belcantohip.com, and the YouTube channel, Singing Early Music.