Robert Morris Aitken | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Robert Morris Aitken

Robert Morris Aitken, flutist, composer (b at Kentville, NS 28 Aug 1939).

Robert Morris Aitken, flutist, composer (b at Kentville, NS 28 Aug 1939). After several orchestral appointments - most remarkably with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra where, at age 19, he was its youngest-ever principal flute - Aitken left orchestral work in 1971 to concentrate on solo performance and chamber music. He appeared frequently with harpsichordist Greta KRAUS and with the Lyric Arts Trio, which was active from 1964 to 1983. Widely sought-after as a soloist by orchestras in North America, Europe and Asia, he has often given premiere performances of contemporary Canadian works and co-founded New Music Concerts, Toronto, in 1971. He has made over 40 recordings for CBC, BIS, Koch, Denon, Marquis and Naxos. In 1980 he received the Grand Prix du Disque. His recording of Takemitsu's chamber music received an "Editor's Choice" nomination from Gramophone Magazine in 2003. Over 65 compositions have been specifically composed for Aitken including R. Murray SCHAFER's Concerto for Flute and Orchestra. He also frequently performs his own works that are highly regarded in the international community. In January 1989, Aitken was one of 20 composers featured in the series Sound in Silence filmed in Poland, sponsored by the Louis Vuitton foundation and ISCM.

To his own compositions Aitken brings the virtuoso performer's delight in sound, experimenting adventurously with instrumental timbre, electroacoustical colour and oriental techniques to produce music of high originality. His Berceuse for flute and orchestra (1992) has received several highly acclaimed performances. From 1960 to 1975 he taught at the University of Toronto. He taught for a decade from 1972 at Shawinigan (known from 1981 as the Johannesen International School of the Arts) where he founded Music at Shawnigan, a three-week festival devoted to chamber music. He was director of advanced studies in music at the Banff Centre from 1985 to 1989. From 1988 until 2002 Aitken was professor at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Freiburg, Germany. As a performer, conductor, and teacher he continues to present performances, carry out residencies, and give master classes around the world.

Named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1993, Aitken was given the Roy Thomson Hall Award in 1994 for contributions to Toronto's musical life. Among his other honours are the Canada Music Citation, the Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award, the William Harold Moon Award, and the title Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the government of France. In 2000 at the University of Miami, Robert David Billington completed his doctoral dissertation, "A Description and Application of Robert Aitken's Concept of the Physical Flute." In 2003 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Flute Association.