Paula Robison burst onto the international music scene in 1966 when she won First Prize at the Geneva Competition, the first American ever to receive this honor. She joined the roster of the newly-formed Young Concert Artists and embarked on a groundbreaking, world-traveling career as a flute soloist, a career which continues to be vibrant to this day. She has commissioned works for flute and orchestra by Leon Kirchner (its newly-restored version will premiere in 2014), Toru Takemitsu, Oliver Knussen, Robert Beaser, and Kenneth Frazelle, premiered music written for her by Lowell Liebermann and Michael Tilson Thomas, performed Leonard Bernstein’s “Hålil” in Vienna and Carl Nielsen’s Concerto in Copenhagen, and presented a rich spectrum of music from Mozart Concerti to Brazilian Samba in her many appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Paula Robison was a founding Artist Member of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, performing with them for twenty seasons. During the same time she was co-director with Scott Nickrenz of the famed Noontime Concerts at the Spoleto Festivals, presenting many great artists early in their careers. For her contributions to American and Italian cultural life she was awarded the Adelaide Ristori Prize, the Premio Pegaso, and Honorary Citizen for Life: Charleston, South Carolina.
Paula Robison has recorded for Vanguard Classics, Sony Classical, CBS Masterworks, Mode (the complete Berio Sequenzas, awarded the Premio del Disco Amadeus 2008, and Lei Liang’s “In Praise of Shadows”), New World Records, King Records, Musical Heritage Society (with longtime duo partners Eliot Fisk and Ruth Laredo), and Bridge Recordings (her Marlboro Festival performance of Schubert’s Introduction and Variations with Rudolf Serkin, named American Record Guide’s Best Recording of the Year). Her books on the art of flute playing are published by Universal Edition, Schott, European-American Music, G. Schirmer, and Theodore Presser.
In 2006 she founded Pergola Recordings, an independent label. New releases coming up in 2014 include collaborations with American pianist Steven Beck and Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen.
One of Paula Robison’s favorite continuing projects is “With Art”: collaborations with visual artists in unusual spaces. In the fall of 2005, Ms. Robison–as Artist-in-Residence at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum–initiated “Variations on a Theme”, a collaborative project with conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, curator Pieranna Cavalchini, and the music of Mozart. Other “With Art” projects have included Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza I” with Italian Art from the 1950s at PS 1 in New York, “Places of the Spirit” with painter Jim Schantz, Toru Takemitsu’s “Itinerant” at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Debussy’s “Syrinx” in a dream-room created by Neapolitan artist Anna Sargenti, a “Spettacolino” with Marionette Colla of Milan, Impressionist music in the Renoir Gallery of the Clark Museum, Vivaldi, Handel, and Mozart in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and a battle with Tim Hawkinson’s “ÜberOrgan” at MASS MoCA.
Although Ms Robison was thrown out of her high school drama club for breaking character and clowning in the middle of a gothic tragedy, through the years her love of theater has never left her, especially Commedia dell’Arte and specifically Arnold Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire”. In 2007 she made a new English performance version of the “Pierrot” texts, using both the original Albert Giraud poems and Otto Erich Hartleben’s translations, and took the speaking part for two performances at the Barge in New York City. On December 31st 2009, in celebration of the full moon, the New Year, and a lunar project by Gardner Museum Artist-in-Residence Taro Shinoda, she was again the “Sprecherin” in a special midnight performance of Schoenberg’s expressionist masterpiece. In 2010 she and guitarist Frederic Hand performed “Ferdinand the Bull” in her own zany arrangement with Stephen Colbert at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Recent critically acclaimed Sprechstimme performances have included Calderwood Hall in Boston, MA, The New World Symphony at the New World Center, and her first “Ode to Napoleon” with counter)induction in at Casa Italiana New York. In November-December of 2012 she joined Argento New Music Project for a two week celebration of the 100th Anniversary of “Pierrot Lunaire” at the Austrian Cultural Forum. She is now preparing her first performances of “Bilitis” by Claude Debussy.
Paula Robison has taught at the Juilliard School and given classes all over the world. She now occupies the Donna Hieken Flute Chair at New England Conservatory, and teaches at the Interlochen Flute Institute each June.