Robert received his earliest musical education from his mother and as a chorister at Hereford Cathedral. He also studied violin and keyboard, going on to read music at New College, Oxford University, recording and touring extensively with the choir, receiving much encouragement from Edward Higginbottom and John Milsom. He founded I Fagiolini there in 1986. He then spent a year at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, finding continuo studies with David Roblou particularly illuminating.
Directing I Fagiolini has taken up most of his time since but he has directed other ensembles at home and abroad, most recently the BBC Singers, Nederlands Kamerkoor, NDR Chor, The Academy of Ancient Music, St James Baroque and the BBC Concert Orchestra. In 2004 Robert directed the Nederlands Kamerkoor in a ground-breaking new music-theatre project (Faust) acclaimed by the Dutch press and set in startling venues such as a Amsterdam vast ship-building yard, a disused station and Bremen Cathedral. Robert directed Opera Zuid’s underground production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo with Rufus Müller in the title role.
He founded the spectacular if short-lived Islington Winter Music Festival, writes and presents programmes for BBC Radio including Discovering Musicand The Early Music Show and has worked on a number of films includingQuills where he tried and failed to make Joaquim Phoenix look like a real conductor. He was appointed an artistic advisor to the York Early Music Festival (2006-10) and in 2009 to the Trigonale Festival, Austria. He claims Monteverdi and Monty Python as equal influences on his life and work.