Robert Battey


My performing career has been, by design, widely diversified. I have taken care not to specialize, even though my favorite activity is playing string quartets. While I've had some success as a soloist, I have mainly tried to be just a well-rounded professional. My concert instrument is a beautiful J.B. Vuillaume.


Principal cellist: Kennedy Center Opera, Kansas City Lyric Opera, Joffrey Ballet, Florida West Coast Symphony, Wolf Trap Bach Orchestra, Bedford Springs Festival Orchestra (PA), Prince William Symphony (VA), Carter Barron Theater Orchestra (DC), Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra (PA), Alexandria Symphony (VA).

Associate Principal cellist: Kansas City Symphony, Maryland Symphony.

Section experience: Cleveland Orchestra, National Symphony, New York City Opera, Ft. Wayne Philharmonic, Annapolis Symphony, National Gallery Orchestra, Concert Artists of Baltimore.

Played under: Lorin Maazel, Antal Dorati, Aaron Copland, Rafael Frübeck de Burgos, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Lukas Foss, Jiri Belohlavek, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Mstislav Rostropovich, Julius Rudel, and Henry Mancini.

Chamber Music

I have received coaching from Josef Gingold, Gyorgy Sebok, Isidore Cohen, and members of the Budapest, Guarneri, Juilliard, Tokyo, Vegh, and Vermeer quartets.

I've performed with David Shifrin, Anthony Newman, Ronald Leonard, Paul Wolfe, Karen Dreyfuss, Samuel Thaviu, Keith Wilson, with members of the Emerson, Kronos, and Panocha string quartets, and with members of the Berlin Philharmonic and London and Chicago Symphonies; I've also played informally with Joshua Bell and Lynn Harrell.

My first full-time position was cellist of the New College String Quartet in Sarasota, Florida (replacing Carter Brey), which performed several times on television and toured the state. In 1981, I accepted a position with the Volker String Quartet in Kansas City, Missouri. We performed much of the standard (and not-so-standard) repertoire, recorded a CD of Kreisler & Prokofiev quartets, toured regionally, and were heard regularly over radio stations in Boston, New Orleans, Columbus, Las Vegas, Portland, and Charleston. Since moving to Washington I have particularly enjoyed playing continuo for the Washington Bach Consort.

Below are some works I've performed, and what the press said:

Bartok Third Quartet

"unqualified success . . .The Volker had an opportunity to display its skill at practically every known string technique." K.C. Star 10/29/91

Beethoven Op. 135

"The Volker played it with an unqualified richness and clarity, from the moment of the opening gesture." KC Star, 5/1/89

Borodin Quartet #2

"The Volker gave a remarkably good account of itself . . . with, again, beautiful slow-movement solos from Battey." K.C. Star 4/27/92

Brahms Quartet in C minor, Op. 51

"Among [the Volker Quartet's assets are] its unusual tone and sonority; the urgency, alacrity and sensitivity of its playing; the closely matched harmony among the four musicians; the appropriateness and incisiveness of its timing and meters; the artful shaping of themes; fluency of musical line; telling use of detail; the careful passing of phrases and mirroring of each musician's playing. KC Star, 4/28/86

Dohnanyi Piano Quintet

"It was a thrilling performance, distinguished especially by some velvety lines from cellist Robert Battey. A standing ovation was rewarded with [an encore]." KC Star, 4/27/92.

Dvorak "American" Quartet

"Showed the [Volker Quartet] at its very considerable best. The warm, fluent, and brightly paced performance elicited cheers." KC Star, 5/2/83
Dvorak "Dumky" Trio
"As beautiful an evening of music as has been heard recently . . . . The highlight was a robust rendering of the Dvorak. The talented trio performed the work with passion and yet with great sensitivity." KC Chronicle, 12/12/86

Mendelssohn E minor Quartet

"this performance had all the refinement, deep caring, and touch of velour that make Mendelssohn's scores the most cultured of music." KC Star, 11/2/86

Messiaen "Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps"

"given a meticulous, exacting performance. I could honestly feel my heartbeat in the pit of my stomach . . . . One had to notice the splendid blending of instruments and superb partnership. The players' ability to give resonance to a whole palette of instrumental colors was matched by an unusual velvet tonality and depth of pile." KC Star, 3/25/85

Mozart Quartet in Bb, K. 589

"showed the quartet's ability to shape phrases as one player . . . featured a beautifully blended viola and cello duet." KC Star, 10/29/91

Prokofiev Quartet # 2

"The performance was vigorous and earthy, yet unfailingly precise in matters of rhythm, intonation, and balance." KC Star, 10/10/83

Ravel Duo

"well served by . . . Mr. Battey, whose playing combined suavity of tone with earthy bravura." KC Star, 12/2/82

Ravel Quartet

"appealingly visceral and full-blooded . . . . The scherzo particularly was a glittering jewel box of sound." KC Star, 10/30/89

Schubert Quartet in G, Op. 161

"Robert Battey's firm, expressive cello was a special pleasure." KC Star, 5/3/82

Schubert "Death and the Maiden" Quartet

"Battey turned in a lovely solo in the cello variation of the slow movement and the presto finale found the Volker in top form, plunging into the vivacious tarantella and wringing from it every last bit of expression." KC Star, 2/27/89

Schumann Quartet in A minor, Op. 41

"a performance notable for effortless ensemble, intelligent interpretation, and sonic polish." KC Star, 2/29/88

Shostakovich Third Quartet

"outstanding . . . the Volker's alert and expressive performance faithfully captured the bleakness of the composer's vision." KC Star, 10/29/84

Sibelius "Voces Intimae" Quartet

"The Volker managed to make sense of the complexities, admirably balancing urgency and reflection . . . the playing was at once incisive and atmospheric." KC Star, 4/30/90

Soloist & Recitalist

I have always enjoyed the challenges of solo playing, though I may lack the goods for a full-blown career in that field. But I have performed all of the standard concertos with numerous orchestras in New York, Ohio, Canada, Missouri, Maryland, and Kansas. I have given solo recitals in Carnegie Recital Hall and the Phillips Collection, and many other venues throughout America and in Mexico, including two live-broadcast recitals over WGMS in Washington. I gave recital-cycles of the complete cello works of Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven in Kansas City, and have tried to expand the repertoire by frequently presenting premieres of new works for the instrument.

Below, again, are some examples of my repertoire with press commentary:

Barber Sonata

"fine-grained cello tone . . . touching [treatment of the main theme]" KC Star, 2/4/93

Beethoven/Brahms program

"His playing was fluent, assured, incisive, always musical, frequently mesmerizing in its strength and elegance. Even the treacherously high lying Brahms F major sonata seemed to hold few pitfalls for him." KC Star, 11/23/82

Brahms Double Concerto

"[the soloists] held a good rapport . . . robust, energetic playing in the finale" KC Star, 3/16/87

Hindemith Sonata Op. 11, No. 3

"assured and precise . . . . Battey brought vivid detail and deep understanding to the music . . . fine and engaging playing." Washington Post, 12/28/87

Rochberg Ricordanza

"nicely shaded reading" Washington Post, 3/29/82

Strauss Sonata

"Mr. Battey is a solid, skillful cellist with a strong tone and musical instincts." NY Times, 12/9/85

Subotnick "Axolotl" for solo cello

"Memorable . . . a gripping account." Musical America, January, 1987

Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations

"Battey played with lovely tone and insightful phrasing . . . . The composer clearly aimed to give cellists a piece to showcase nimble, virtuosic display. Mr. Battey met those demands handily . . . . His recreation of the diminuendo at the end of the sixth variation was exceptionally effective." KC Star, 1/27/86

Ysaye Solo Sonata

"a stark, powerful work with some challenging polyphony for the soloist, which Mr. Battey negotiated with genuine command." NY Times, 12/9/85
"given [a] highly emotional, emphatic performance" KC Star, 12/2/85

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