The Norwegian pianist and teacher, Robert Riefling, came from a family of musicians of German origin. He was a student of Nils Larsen in Oslo, and at the age of eleven he performed solo with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. A few years later, in 1925, he made his professional solo debut with a recital in Norway’s capital. Following studies with Karl Leimer (Hannover), Wilhelm Kempff and Edwin Fischer (Potsdam and Berlin), he embarked on an international career. In 1936 he won first prize in a Scandinavian competition in Copenhagen, and in 1938 was among the winners of the Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels.
Throughout a career spanning sixty years Robert Riefling was one of Scandinavia's foremost performers. He appeared as a soloist with renowned conductors as Antonini, John Barbirolli, Thomas Beecham, Fritz Busch, Bliss, Dobrowen, Rafael Kubelík, Fr. Mahler, Malko, Igor Markevitch, Sanzogno, Malcolm Sargent, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Bruno Walter and A. Wolff. He gave concerts in most countries in Western Europe and in the USA (1954 and 1960). A flawless technique, a strong personal dedication and a never-failing musical insight were characteristics of his playing. He had a wide-ranging repertoire, noted for his performances of works by the great classical composers - J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart and L.v. Beethoven. He was the first Norwegian pianist to play the whole of J.S. Bach's Das wohltemperierte Klavier in concert (i.e. London, 1947), and he recorded the cycle twice - in mid 1950's and in 1985. He played L.v. Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas in many countries and recorded them as well. He also recorded piano sonatas by Haydn. He promoted contemporary Norwegian music, having premiered compositions by Klaus Egge, Harald Sæverud, Johs M. Rivertz and Fartein Valen. His repertoire also included works by romantic and contemporary composers, among them Schubert, Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Tchaikovsky - and, of course, Norway's own Edvard Grieg.
Robert Riefling also found time for teaching, and led a generation of young pianists to prominence. Together with his brother, Reimar Riefling, he ran the Riefling Piano Institute from 1941 to 1950. From 1950 on he taught in Copenhagen, and from 1967 to 1973 he occupied a professorial chair at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory there. From 1973 to 1981 he was professor of piano at the State Academy of Music in Oslo. Over the years Robert Riefling held a number of seminars and master-classes in Scandinavian capitals. He had also private pupils in Oslo and Copenhagen. He was member of the board of Examiners, Royal Danish Music Conservatory in Copenhagen since 1952.
Robert Riefling was awarded O. Christensen's memorial prize in Copenhagen in 1945, and received the Grand Prix du Disque in 1965 for one of his recordings. He was awarded the city of Oslo's Culture Prize in 1985, and was made Commander of the Order of St. Olav and Knight of the First Class of the Order of the Daneborg. In 1987 he received the Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse des Verdienstordens des Bundesrepublik Deutschland.