Robert Shaw

Composers

Biography

Born: April 30, 1916; Red Bluff, CA   Died: January 25, 1999; New Haven, CT  
Over his long career Robert Lawson Shaw became perhaps classical music's best-known choral conductor, and an important orchestral conductor as well. Born in 1916, Shaw was the son of a clergyman, and his mother sang in church choirs. As a young man he filled in as a choir leader on occasion, but did not plan a musical career, studying philosophy and comparative religion at Pomona College in suburban Los Angeles. During his freshman year, the Read more leader of the college glee club fell ill, and he was asked by other members to substitute. After he had been at the helm for a time, a film happened to be shot on campus, and Fred Waring, the well-known pop choral director, was in the cast. Hearing Shaw's glee club, he offered him a job, and Shaw accepted after he graduated.

Shaw founded his own pop group, the Collegiate Chorale, but soon began adding classical music to its repertoire. Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitzky heard Shaw and, despite Shaw's relative inexperience, hired him to prepare his choirs. Then the great Arturo Toscanini invited Shaw and the Collegiate Chorale to join his NBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. The results made Shaw's reputation.

Shaw then founded the 42-voice Robert Shaw Chorale, perhaps the first full-time professional choir in the U.S. unconnected with a religious institution. Meanwhile he studied music theory, piano, and conducting technique. For eighteen years the Chorale toured incessantly and made many successful recordings, including some well-loved arrangements of Christmas favorites.

In 1953 he accepted a position conducting mainly light music with the San Diego Symphony. In 1956 George Szell invited Shaw to build a chorus to match the standards of his Cleveland Orchestra, rapidly on the rise. Shaw accepted the post, and in the process also took formal and informal lessons with Szell.

In 1966 the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra invited Shaw to become its next music director. During twenty years at its helm he built its quality and reputation to high international levels. When he took over in 1967, Atlanta was still essentially a segregated city. In his first year, Shaw established a week-long residency for the orchestra at Spelman College, one of Atlanta's historically black colleges. He also frequently conducted in the city's churches, black and white. In 1972 he gave the world premiere of Scott Joplin's opera, Treemonisha.

When Shaw's first five-year contract was up, the orchestra board voted not to renew his appointment because of the large quantity of twentieth century music he played, citing poor ticket sales. Within two weeks, however, 3,500 new subscribers sent in season-ticket checks, all bearing the notation that they were contingent on Shaw remaining the conductor.

Shaw was an extremely tough conductor. He raged, especially at the chorus members. He posted a formal letter after every choral rehearsal, chiding the singers and exhorting them onward. Koussevitzky once said he was "amazed that any group of adults would willingly endure such tyrannical treatment from a conductor." Shaw and the orchestra recorded for the Telarc label. He retired from the Atlanta podium in 1988 and was proclaimed conductor laureate, continuing to conduct regularly. He also made numerous guest appearances as a conductor, appearing in his signature midnight blue rather than black tails. Shaw spent four months a year in the village of Dordogne, France, where he conducted the Robert Shaw Institute and festival, sponsored by The Ohio State University.

Shaw died in 1999 of a massive stroke suffered while he attended a play directed by his youngest son. During his career he won thirteen Grammy awards and the 1991 Kennedy Center Honors. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 117 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    RCA Living Stereo Collection Vol 2
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 300350 Release Date: 05/13/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Richard Strauss,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  Artur Rubinstein,  Byron Janis,  Gary Graffman,  Vladimir Horowitz  ... 
    Conductor:  Josef Krips,  Fritz Reiner,  Pierre Monteux,  Charles Munch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Symphony of the Air,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Carl Orff: Carmina Burana
    Label: Lim   Catalog: 73 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Orff
    Performer:  Judith Blegen,  William [Tenor Vocal] Brown,  Håkan Hagegård
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw
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  • 3.
    Label: Gala   Catalog: 7703852 Release Date: 06/14/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Gioachino Rossini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Beverly Sills,  Helen Vanni,  Adib Fazah,  Henry Price
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Julius Rudel
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  • 4.
    The Super Telarc Sound 1
    Label: Lim   Catalog: 60 Release Date: 01/15/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Georges Bizet,  Edvard Grieg  ... 
    Performer:  Joseph Silverstein,  Liza Minnelli,  Joe Pass,  Ray Brown  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Seiji Ozawa,  Leonard Slatkin,  Lorin Maazel  ... 
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  • 5.
    Essential Phillip Glass
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 191720 Release Date: 01/24/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Janice Pendarvis,  Yo-Yo Ma,  Philip Glass,  Douglas Perry  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Riesman,  Michael Reisman,  Dennis Russell Davies,  Robert Shaw  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Glass Ensemble,  Stuttgart State Opera Chorus,  Stuttgart State Opera Orchestra  ... 
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  • 6.
    The 50 Most Essential Christmas Masterpieces
    Label: X5 Music Group   Catalog: 103 Release Date: 10/25/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Leroy Anderson,  Hugh Martin,  Lowell Mason,  Adolphe Adam  ... 
    Performer:  Emmy Verhey,  Michael Ponti,  Susanne Doll
    Conductor:  Klaus Arp,  Alun Francis,  Robert Shaw,  Heribert Beissel  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Antonio Lucio,  Musica Antiqua New York,  Bach Collegium Japan  ... 
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  • 7.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 182 Release Date: 06/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Klaus George Roy,  Bain Murray,  Howard Whittaker,  Hale Smith  ... 
    Performer:  Abraham Skernick,  Harvey McGuire,  Warren Downs,  John Dietz  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Raymond Wilding-White
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kulas Choir,  Kulas Chamber Orchestra,  Kulas Chamber Ensemble
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  • 8.
    Verdi: Grestest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 761890 Release Date: 02/02/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Anna Moffo,  Richard Tucker,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Leontyne Price  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin,  Robert Shaw,  Fernando Previtali,  Emerson Buckley  ... 
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  • 9.
    Wagner: Greatest Hits
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 761891 Release Date: 02/02/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy,  Robert Shaw,  Zubin Mehta,  Erich Leinsdorf  ... 
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  • 10.
    Carols For Christmas - Original Album Classics
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 756174 Release Date: 11/10/2009   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Franz Xaver Gruber,  Traditional,  John Francis Wade,  William J. Kirkpatrick  ... 
    Performer:  Mario Lanza,  Johannes Sonnleitner,  Placido Domingo,  Eileen Farrell  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Paul Baron,  Helmuth Froschauer,  Luther Henderson  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Chorale,  Chorus,  Orchestra  ... 
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  • 11.
    Classical Prep School - Essential Music
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80749 Release Date: 08/11/2009   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Richard Wagner,  Edvard Grieg  ... 
    Performer:  John O'Conor,  James Van Demark,  Rudolf Serkin,  Michael Chertock  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Bishop,  Yoel Levi,  Erich Kunzel,  Lorin Maazel  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,  Cincinnati Pops,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 12.
    Christmas with Robert Shaw / Atlanta SO and Chorus
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 1051 Release Date: 10/14/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  John Francis Wade,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,  Atlanta Symphony Chorus
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  • 13.
    Christmas With The Robert Shaw Chorale
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 1217 Release Date: 11/13/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Traditional,  Tomás Luis de Victoria,  William Billings,  Guillaume Costeley  ... 
    Performer:  Jon Humphrey,  Florence Kopleff,  Rodney Hansen,  Sara Mae Endich  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Chorale
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  • 14.
    Christmas Break - A Relaxing Classical Mix
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80687 Release Date: 09/25/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Harold Edwin Darke,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Charles Gounod  ... 
    Performer:  Yolanda Kondonassis,  Michael Chertock,  Laurie Monahan
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw,  Leonard Slatkin,  Craig Jessop
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Chamber Singers,  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra,  Mormon Tabernacle Choir  ... 
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  • 15.
    Best Of Philip Glass
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 705119 Release Date: 02/20/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Philip Glass,  Paul Esswood,  Douglas Perry,  Linda Ronstadt  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Riesman,  Dennis Russell Davies,  Christopher Keene,  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Glass Ensemble,  Stuttgart State Opera Orchestra,  Stuttgart State Opera Chorus  ... 
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  • 16.
    Original Jacket Collection - Mozart / George Szell
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 86793 Release Date: 11/14/2006   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Mischa Schneider,  Joseph Roisman,  Boris Kroyt,  George Szell  ... 
    Conductor:  George Szell,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Robert Shaw,  Louis Lane
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet members,  Cleveland Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra Chorus  ... 
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  • 17.
    The Divine Feminine
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80689 Release Date: 10/24/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hildegard of Bingen,  John Tavener,  Arvo Pärt,  Tomás Luis de Victoria  ... 
    Performer:  Carlo Willems,  Elly Ameling,  Sylvia McNair,  Richard Leech  ... 
    Conductor:  Rudolf Werthen,  Robert Shaw,  Jesús Lopez-Cobos,  Yoel Levi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tapestry,  I Fiamminghi,  Robert Shaw Festival Singers  ... 
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  • 18.
    Sacred - Great Sacred Music For Orchestra & Chorus
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80671 Release Date: 05/23/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Gabriel Fauré,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Harrison Millard  ... 
    Performer:  Judith Blegen,  Christine Goerke,  Marietta Simpson,  Dawn Upshaw  ... 
    Conductor:  Craig Jessop,  Robert Shaw,  Norman Mackenzie
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra at Temple Square,  Mormon Tabernacle Choir,  Atlanta Symphony Chorus  ... 
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  • 19.
    A Cappella / Shaw, Robert Shaw Festival Singers
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80656 Release Date: 07/26/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frank Martin,  Arvo Pärt,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Festival Singers,  Atlanta Symphony Chorus,  Robert Shaw Chamber Singers
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  • 20.
    Alvin Singleton
    Label: First Edition   Catalog: 43 Release Date: 06/21/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alvin Singleton
    Conductor:  Louis Lane,  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
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  • 21.
    A Recital - Donizetti, Debussy, Handel / Marian Anderson
    Label: Symposium   Catalog: 1270 Release Date: 05/31/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Jean Sibelius,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Marian Anderson,  Franz Rupp,  Orchestra,  RCA Victor Chamber Orchestra  ... 
    Conductor:  Lawrence Collingwood,  Robert Shaw
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  • 22.
    La Belle France - Music Inspired By France
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80653 Release Date: 04/26/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gabriel Fauré,  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Erik Satie  ... 
    Performer:  Yolanda Kondonassis,  Judith Blegen,  John O'Conor,  Elly Ameling  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin,  Robert Shaw,  Neeme Järvi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra,  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,  Atlanta Symphony Chorus  ... 
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  • 23.
    Classic Library - Handel: Messiah / Shaw Chorale
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 62317 Release Date: 10/12/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel
    Performer:  Thomas Paul,  Florence Kopleff,  Richard Lewis,  Judith Raskin  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Chorale,  Robert Shaw Orchestra
    CD: $16.99
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  • 24.
    Classical Music 101 - 101 Famous Classical Themes
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 63691 Release Date: 09/28/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini,  Igor Stravinsky,  Georges Bizet,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  José Luis Garcia,  Placido Domingo,  Carlo Bergonzi,  Barry Douglas  ... 
    Conductor:  Arthur Fiedler,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Fritz Reiner,  Eugene Ormandy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Pops,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 25.
    Fauré: Pelléas Et Mélisande; Berlioz: Les Nuits D'été
    Label: Telarc   Catalog: 80084 Release Date: 08/24/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz,  Gabriel Fauré
    Performer:  Elly Ameling
    Conductor:  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
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