Robert Nairn Bass

ROB NAIRNis a Distinguished Professor of Music at Penn State University and on the Faculty of The Juilliard School. A specialist in historical performance, he has been principal bassist with Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society since 2003. He is also principal bass of the Boston Early Music Festival and Juilliard Baroque. He has performed with the English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, Concerto Caledonia, Washington Bach Consort, Rebel, Florilegium, The Smithsonian Chamber Players, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. In addition, he has performed with the London and Oslo Philharmonics; the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestras; the English, Scottish and Australian Chamber Orchestras, Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, the London Sinfonietta, the Halle Orchestra, and the London Mozart Players.

A native of Australia, he received his Bachelor of Music with Distinction from the Canberra School of Music and a post-graduate Diploma from the Berlin Musikhochschule by courtesy of a two-year DAAD German Government Scholarship. He has lived and worked in Germany, England, Australia and the United States.

In 2009 he received a Recognition Award for Historical Performance from the International Society of Bassists. His recording of Mozart’s concert aria “Per Questra Bell Mano” with the Handel and Haydn Society and bass Eric Owens has garnered substantial critical acclaim; Gramophone magazine called it “all one could wish for” and Classic FM magazine selected it as its Record of the Month.

International festivals include Salzburg, Baden-Baden, Aldeburgh, Glyndebourne, Schleswig-Holstein, and the London ‘Proms’ under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Mazur, Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Maris Jansons, Sir Roger Norrington, Sir Charles Mackeras, Christoph Eschenbach, Lorin Maazel, Kent Negano, and Franz Brüggen. He has performed at such international venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw, La Scala, Le Châtelet, Leningrad Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonie, Teatro Colôn, Konzerthaus and Musikverein (Vienna), and the Sydney Opera House.


He has commissioned and premiered more than forty newly commissioned works for solo double bass and chamber groups and worked extensively with such groups as the London Sinfonietta, Gruppe Neue Musik Berlin, Australysis, the Music Theatre of Wales, and the Sydney Alpha Ensemble. He premiered a new concerto by Barry Conyngham in 2009, Doug Balliett in 2015 and will jointly premier Concertos by Stevie Wishardt and Elena Kats-Chernin in 2016.


He is a Past President of the International Society of Bassists and a Howard Foundation Fellowship recipient from Brown University. In 2015 he was awarded a Faculty Scholar Medal from Penn State. He has recorded for Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, EMI, Virgin, ABC Classics, and Channel Classics. His teachers include Max McBride, Klaus Stoll, and Tom Martin.


Rob is a Volunteer Fireman with the Alpha Fire Company and EMT with the University Ambulance Service.