The Australian pianist, conductor and composer, Roger Robert Woodward, studied piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, with Professor Alexander Sverjensky (a pupil of Sergei Rachmaninov) and in the class of Professor Zbigniew Drzewiecki (a pupil of Ignazy Paderewski and lifelong friend of Szymanowski and Artur Rubinstein) at the National Chopin Academy for Music in Warsaw.
Roger Woodward made his debut at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1970. Since then he has performed throughout Europe, the USA and Australia. He has appeared with the major orchestras throughout the world and with the world's most distinguished conductors, including the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Cleveland Orchestra, London Orchestras and EEC Mahlerjugendorchester, directed by Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Charles Dutoit, Eliahu Inbal, James Judd, Erich Leinsdorf, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Sir Roger Norrington, and Edo de Waart. He also worked with Paavo Berglund, Witold Rowicki, Georges Tzipine, Georg Tintner and Walter Susskind.
Roger Woodward's career has been closely associated with world premieres of works by the most famous composers of our time: Gilbert Amy, Jean Barraqué, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Anne Boyd, Bussotti, John Cage, James Dillon, Franco Donatoni, Morton Feldman, Rolf Gehlhaar, Peter Michael Hamel, Askell Masson, Richard Meale, Olivier Messiaen, Hans Otte, Arvo Pärt, Horatiu Radulescu, Larry Sitsky, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Toru Takemitsu, Xu Xiao-song and Yannis Xenakis amongst others. Many of their works have been written specifically for him. In 1986 he gave world premiere of Xenakis' Keqrops, conceived for Woodward with New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, and in November 1988 he performed as Music Director, Xenakis ballet Kraanerg mounted by Sydney Dance Company.
As a composer, Roger Woodward was commissioned by the Festival d'Automne Paris for the bicentennial celebrations of the French Revolution with his works performed in the UK, Poland, France, Spain and at the Sydney Spring International Festival of New Music. His passion for chamber music involved him in performances with a wide range of artists including the Vienna Trio, Alexander, Arditti, Edinburgh and Tokyo String Quartets, Frank Zappa, Ivry Gitlis, Synergy Percussion (Sydney) and with the Sydney Dance Company in a production of Xenakis’s Kraanerg recorded by Etcetera Records BV (Amsterdam).
Roger Woodward is founder member of contemporary music series in London in 1972 and in Australia in 1975. He performed historic series of 16 concerts presenting the complete works of Chopin in 1985. He founded and directed the London Music Digest, Kötschach-Mauthner Musiktage, Sydney Spring International Festival of New Music and ’Joie et Lumiére series, Bourgogne. Woodward has performed at international festivals on five continents, including Sviatoslav Richter's Festival at Grange de Meslay, Tours, on several occasions. He has made television and video documentaries for the BBC with Xenakis and Pierre Boulez and further documentaries with Stockhausen, Cage and Arvo Pärt. The Guardian described him as a “pianistic genius”; Le Monde de la Musique, Paris, for his Debussy performances, as “magnificent”; in Edinburgh, he was described as a “musician’s musician” and at the Toulouse Festival, the French Press wrote: “Roger Woodward compte parmi les musiciens internationaux de premier plan notre epoque”.
In January 2007, Roger Woodward appears for RadioBremenklavierfest after which he records the Debussy Préludes and several volumes of early-20th-century Russian/Ukrainian music in Munich for Celestial Harmonies, with Ulrich Kraus. In Summer 2007, he records the Schumann C major Phantasie and J.S.Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Clavier before performing in Gdansk, Poland, where the Order of Solidarity is to be conferred on him. In September 2007, he performs Chopin with James Judd in Adelaide, Australia, and both books of the Bach Preludes and Fugues in Sydney. Also in 2007 a recording of live Xenakis performances from Vienna, London, Frankfurt and Sydney will be released by Celestial Harmonies.
Roger Woodward works with young artists in many countries and participates on the Juries of international competitions. Together with the musicians of the Alexander String Quartet he is Professor at the San Francisco State University and author of publications covering a wide field.
Roger Woodward’s recordings include: Sergei Rachmaninov Preludes; Scriabin/Prokofiev/Dmitri Shostakovich; Australian Contemporary Music; Chopin Allegro de Concert, Barcarolle etc; London Music Digest: Barraqué's Sonata, Bussotti/Brouwer; Werder's 3rd Sonata, 1969; Meale's Coruscations and 2 Australian Discs (RCA and EMI), 1973; Takemitsu, 1973; Serocki, 1976; 2 L.v. Beethoven Sonatas Discs RCA; D. Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues, double album; Franz Liszt's transcription of L.v. Beethoven's Eroica; Hoddinoll 3rd Concerto, with Philharmonia Orchestra; Johannes Brahms' 1st Piano Concerto, conducted by Kurt Masur; Barry Conyngham's Southern Cross, with Wanda Wilkomirska and Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Niklaus Wyss.
Roger Woodward’s repertoire embraces all styles and periods with currently over one hundred recordings and videos for DGG, Decca, EMI, RCA, BMG, Warners, ABC Classics, Etcetera Records BV, Polskie Nagrania, CPO, Unicorn, and most recently Celestial Harmonies BV. In October, 2006, Celestial Harmonies’ release of the Chopin’s Nocturnes was reviewed in Frankfurt’s Musik an sich by Sven Kerkhoff:
“The complete recording of Chopin’s Nocturnes has no equal. Woodward approaches them with great gentleness. Virtuosic tinkering with the keyboard is foreign to him. His concentrated interpretation is well thought out, now and then pensive and contains embellishments of astonishing yet never conceited liberties that demonstrate how strongly and in what a breathtakingly modern way Chopin has worked with sound colours. Ethereal sound constructions rise and dissolve like phantastic dreamscapes. But those landscapes are of such ravishing beauty and the farewell from these intangible constructions so painful, that one has to continually catch one’s breath. Whoever could not, until now, marvel at or cry over Chopin will learn it here. …… Unconditional recommendation! “
In November 2006 David Hood reviewed the same recording for Libretto 3MBS-FM, in Melbourne Australia:
“this recording is superb ... the pianist is so identified with the music that it can truly speak through his fingers. The music has been fully prepared, with six editions consulted and facsimiles of autographs ... This collection stands with those of Moravec and Rubinstein in sheer style and excellence. There is magic in Woodward’s portrayal of these matchless songs of rest and peace… romance and storm.”
Whilst recording the Chopin Nocturnes, Woodward also recorded for Celestial Harmonies two magnum-opus contemporary German piano cycles: Hans Otte’s Stundenbuch (Book of Hours) and Peter Michael Hamel’s Von Klang des Leben (Of the Sound of Life). These two recordings have been awarded the Critics Prize for the best Klavier section CD's of 2007 by the NMZ-Neue Musikzeitung in Germany. In October 2006, the musicians of the Alexander String Quartet joined him to record the F minor Chopin Piano Concerto and L.v. Beethoven C major Piano Quartet Woo36. Earlier in 2006, after performances of the Johannes Brahms' Piano Quintet, the Alexander String Quartet and Woodward recorded for Foghorn Classics the D. Shostakovich Piano Quintet in New York. They also collaborated in three concerts of the music of D. Shostakovich at the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, for the Centenary Celebrations of the composer’s birth, with performances of the Violin, Cello and Viola Sonata, 5 Pieces for Two Violins and Piano, the Piano Quintet, as well as eight of the Preludes and Fugues. Woodward had previously performed the complete cycle of D. Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, recorded for RCA (UK).
In December, 2007, his performances of J.S. Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue (BWV 903) and 2nd and 6th Partitas (BWV 826 & BWV 830) received the coveted “Preis der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik” for the Klavier Section for the last quarter 2007. Further CD publications scheduled over the first art of 2008 include the Debussy Preludes, Chopin F-minor Piano Concerto and L.v. Beethoven C-major Piano Quartet Wo036, with the Alexander String Quartet and the first (of two) books of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (BWV 846-869).
His honours include: Fellow. Chopin Institute. Warsaw 1976; KT (Breffni) in 1985. He is Commander of the Polish Order of Merit (1993) and will receive the Polish Order of Solidarity in 2008; a Chevalier in the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2005); Officer of the Order of the British Empire (1980) and Companion of the Order of Australia (1992), where he was designated a lifelong National Treasure by the Australian National Trust (2005).