Ralph van Raat has been completely fascinated by classical music of the twentieth century since the age of 14. Although his repertoire ranges from Bach to Boulez, his primary focus has always been on composers dating from Debussy, Bartók and Ives to present day masters. His aim is to convince his audiences of the immense beauty and diversity of music of our own time through solo recitals, lecture-recitals, concerto performances, CD-releases and special projects.
Van Raat helps audiences identify with modern day composers by adhering to a classical approach: he firmly believes that a strong sense of classical structure as well as a refinement of tone is essential in conveying the logic and poetry of any music, certainly including his repertoire of choice…
Pianist and musicologist Ralph van Raat studied the piano with Ton Hartsuiker and Willem Brons at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and Musicology at the University of Amsterdam. During his piano studies Van Raat was admitted to the select “Provision for Outstanding Musicians”, a special training course for exceptional students. He graduated Cum Laude in piano as well as in musicology. As part of the Advanced Program of the Conservatory of Amsterdam, and funded by the Dutch cultural trust “Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds”, Van Raat studied with Claude Helffer in Paris, with Ursula Oppens at Chicago’s Northwestern University, with Liisa Pohjola in Finland and with Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Musikhochschule in Cologne.
In addition to winning the First Prize at the International Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition in 1999, Van Raat has won a large number of prizes and awards, including an international Borletti-Buitoni Fellowship, the Philip Morris Arts Award, the Stipend-Prize Darmstadt during the “Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik” in Darmstadt, the Second Prize as well as the Donemus-Prize (for Contemporary Music) of the Princess Christina Competition, the Elisabeth Everts Prize, the VSCD Classical Music Prize, the Fortis MeesPierson Award of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the Prijs Klassiek (Classics Prize) of the Dutch radio and television broadcaster, NTR.
Van Raat regularly appears as a recitalist in both The Netherlands and abroad, in Europe, the Middle East and Asia as well as in the United States. Contemporary classical music is his repertoire of choice and dedication. His concerts are regularly broadcast by both Dutch and foreign radio and television networks. He has been engaged for his own radio series on contemporary classical music by Dutch national broadcasting, and has been honored with his own concert series by a.o. the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam and De Doelen in Rotterdam.
Van Raat has often performed as a soloist with orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Frankfurt, the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, the Dortmunder Philharmoniker, the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and the China National Symphony Orchestra. Van Raat was Artist-in-Residence of The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra in 2010. He has worked closely with conductors such as Valery Gergiev, JoAnn Falletta, Susanna Mälkki, David Robertson, Peter Eötvös, Stefan Asbury, Michel Tabachnik, Jac van Steen and Otto Tausk.
He has performed as a soloist at important festivals such as at the symphonic openings concert of the Gergiev Festival, the BBC Proms, the Hong Kong Arts Festival (as part of the prestigious Credit Suisse Emerging Artist Series), the Festival International de Musique de Besançon, the Holland Festival, the Time of Music festival in Viitasaari, Finland, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK, the Berliner Festspiele and the Tanglewood Summer Festival in the United States.
Ralph van Raat has had an exclusive contract with the international record label Naxos since December 2006. His first recording for Naxos, the complete piano works by John Adams, received top ratings in several magazines: Chicago Time Out (6/6 stars), Le Monde de la Musique (4/4 stars) and monthly magazine Luister (10/10 score). It was highlighted as a CD of the month in Gramophone. His second CD, with Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated was labelled a Benchmark CD in BBC Music Magazine, and Highly Recommended by Gramophone. In December 2010, within a month after its release, Van Raat’s CD with Hans Otte: Das Buch der Klänge (The Book of Sounds) was chosen as CD of the Week by Dutch public radio. Van Raat’s recording of Arvo Pärt’s piano music received a 5/5 star rating in BBC Music Magazine. His most recent recording, piano duo works by Debussy and Messiaen (Naxos 8.572472) has been nominated for the Spellemannsprisen 2012, the Norwegian equivalent to the Grammy.
The Rzewski recording as well as those of the complete piano works by John Adams, Gavin Bryars and Sir John Tavener have all been bestsellers, having ranked among the Top 20 bestselling Naxos albums worldwide. This resulted in 2009 in the publication of a special dedicated Artist Portrait CD-box, with the complete recordings for Naxos to date.
Collaboration with composers
Many composers worldwide, for example Gavin Bryars, David Lang and Tan Dun, have dedicated piano compositions and concertos to Van Raat. Van Raat has worked directly with many composers on the interpretation of their piano works: with John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Joep Franssens, Gavin Bryars, Jonathan Harvey, Helmut Lachenmann, György Kurtág, Magnus Lindberg, Arvo Pärt, Frederic Rzewski, Tan Dun and Sir John Tavener, among others.
Van Raat teaches contemporary piano music interpretation at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. He regularly gives master classes, lectures and workshops and has done so at the conservatories of Tirana, Nizhny Novgorod, Kiev, the Ligeti Academy of the ASKO/Schönberg Ensemble, etc. as well as for many other universities and institutes.
Van Raat was named a Steinway Artist by the Steinway piano company in 2003, joining an exclusive circle of renowned artists including Vladimir Horowitz, Martha Argerich, Alfred Brendel, Lang Lang and Keith Jarrett. He records exclusively on Steinway pianos and uses the Steinway piano as his preferred instruments for performances worldwide.