The Australian violinist, composer and conductor, Richard Tognetti, was born in Canberra and raised in Wollongong. He is cousin to Colleen Tognetti - mother of the screenwriter Laurence Briggs and the professional Ballet dancer Alinta Briggs. He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Alice Waten, in his home town of Wollongong with William Primrose, and undertook post-graduate study at the Berne Conservatory (Switzerland) with Igor Ozim, where he was awarded the the Tschumi Prize as the top graduate soloist in 1989..
Later that year Richard Tognetti returned to lead several performances of the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), and in November the Board of the Australian Chamber Orchestra made him artistic director and lead violinist - at only 25 years of age. Under his 20 years of leadership, the orchestra has earned a reputation as one of the leading chamber orchestras in the world. The Times has gone so far as to say "This group must be the best chamber orchestra on earth."
Richard Tognetti has established an international reputation for his compelling performances and artistic individualism. He is an extremely versatile violinist, performing on period, modern and electric instruments. His numerous arrangements, compositions and transcriptions have expanded the chamber orchestra repertoire and been performed throughout the world. For example, with Australian rock musician Iva Davies, he co-wrote and performed on December 31, 1999 for an international millennium broadcast The Ghost of Time on electric violin, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed with a number of different musicians from different genres. His musical abilities extend to his abilities to arrange music for different ensemble types. He has arranged the music of composers like Janáček, Szymanowski, Paganini, L.v. Beethoven, Ravel and Satie, greatly expanding the chamber orchestra repertoire.
Richard Tognetti maintains a busy schedule in Australia and globally with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, as well as with other groups. He has played at events like the Salzburg Festival and made appearances with the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), Hong Kong Philharmonic, Camerata Salzburg, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Nordic Chamber Orchestra. He also conducts opera, making his debut in the 2001 Sydney Festival, conducting Mozartís Mitridate, rè di Ponto. He is currently Artistic Director of the Maribor Festival in Slovenia; the first festival under his leadership was held in September 2008 and featured collaborations with European and Australian musicians and the European premiere of Luminous.
As a soloist Richard Tognetti has appeared on many occasions with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and with the major Australian symphonies, including the Australian premiere of Ligetiís Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 1998. He has collaborated with colleagues from across various art forms and artistic styles, including Joseph Tawadros, Dawn Upshaw, James Crabb, Emmanuel Pahud, actor Jack Thompson, singers Peter Garrett, Neil Finn, Tim Freedman and Paul Capsis, photographer Bill Henson and poet/cartoonist Michael Leunig. In 2003, Richard was co-composer of the score for Peter Weirís film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; violin tutor for its star, Russell Crowe; and can also be heard performing on the award-winning soundtrack. In 2005, together with Michael Yezerski he co-composed the soundtrack to Tom Carrollís surf film Horrorscopes and. In 2008, he wrote The Red Tree for children's choir, chamber orchestra and projected images with Michael Yezerski, inspired by the illustrated book of Shaun Tan.
Richard Tognetti is heavily involved in the making of recordings, performing as soloist in the concerti of L.v. Beethoven, Mozart, and Dvořák. He has also lead the Australian Chamber Orchestra in critically acclaimed recordings of works such as the L.v. Beethoven piano concertos with Stephen Kovacevich, the J.S. Bach keyboard concertos with Angela Hewitt, Antonio Vivaldi flute concertos with Emmanuel Pahud and the ground-breaking 2000 collaboration with rock singer Peter Garrett and cartoonist/philosopher Michael Leunig resulting in the release of a recording of Camille Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals accompanying a book of Leunigís text and illustrations. He has also strongly supported Australian composers such as Peter Sculthorpe.
Alongside numerous recordings with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Richard Tognetti has recently recorded J.S. Bachís solo violin repertoire for ABC Classics.The unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas (BWV 1001-1006) were released in 2005 to critical acclaim and awarded the 2006 ARIA Award for Best Classical Album.The Concertos (BWV 1041-1043) were released in 2006 and awarded the 2007 ARIA for Best Classical Album.The final instalment, the accompanied Sonatas (BWV 1014-1019), was released in 2007 and recently collected the 2008 ARIA for Best Classical Album. Future recordings include a set of Mozart concertante violin works and the Dvořák Violin Concerto for the BIS label.
Amidst Richard Tognetti's ever more varied activities have been an appearance at the Opening Ceremony of the Rugby World Cup 2003 with James Crabb. His film about music and surfing, Musica Surfica, won Best Feature at the 2008 New York Surf Film Festival. A passionate advocate for music education, he established the Australian Chamber Orchestraís Education and Emerging Artists programs in 2005 and toured regional Australia with a concert based on the inspiring documentary film, Musica Surfica.
In 2007, the Australian Chamber Orchestra received from an anonymous donor the 1743 "Carrodus" violin, made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù. This instrument is claimed to be one of the finest in existence (although in fact it has not even been played for over 50 years) and was bought for approximately $10 million. It is currently played by Richard Tognetti in the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Tognetti previously played a 1759 JB Guadagnini violin, using a combination of raw gut and steel strings. The violin was purchased by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for its Fine Art collection and, since the arrival of the 1743 del Gesù instrument, is now played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra's principal violin, Helena Rathbone. It has been lent to the Australian Chamber Orchestra on a semi-permanent basis.
Richard Tognetti was declared a National Living Treasure in 1999 and received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the University of Sydney in 2005. He holds honorary doctorates also from two other Australian universities. In 2009, Tognetti celebrated 20 years as Artistic Director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.