So who was Robert Bouffler?

Born in 1948, an only child, adopted as a baby by a couple that lived in Bathurst, New South Wales, west of Sydney, beyond the Great Dividing Ridge. It is believed his adoptive father ran a successful haulage business. Robert inherited his father’s wealth, but continued to live a simple life, very much a socialist at heart.

He was clearly an exceptional student, excelling in sciences as well as music, and became very well qualified. He told a friend that it had been a toss-up between nuclear science and music as a career. He began learning the piano aged 9, and broadcast on the radio at age 11. He won a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatorium where he studied piano, harpsichord, organ composition and conducting, and became a finalist in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s competition at age 18. His tutor at the Sydney Conservatorium said of Robert in 1967 that “It has been my great pleasure and privilege to have taught Mr Robert Bouffler in class for Harmony and Counterpoint, and privately in Composition and Orchestration. He has from first to last shown abundant originality of both matter and style – in fact, he is approaching that much misused quality, genius.” The testimony ends with “Mr Bouffler is a young gentleman of impeccable character and manners.”

Robert Bouffler with Michael Nebe

In 1968, at the age of 20 he came to England to study for a Masters degree at King’s College London. Over the next 10 years his musical life blossomed. He studied Contemporary Music at Oxford and took part in piano master classes with leading musicians, including Daniel Barenboim, and made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1975.

An invitation from the Dutch Government to participate in a leading Music Festival in the Netherlands gave him the chance to develop his friendship with two people he remained very close to all his life. One was the Australian composer Jenny Fowler, who was to compose a “Lament” in his memory, played at his memorial service. The other was the German ‘cellist Michael Nebe, with whom he shared the house in White Hill (the one with the phone and pianos!) after they studied together at King’s College.

The late 1970s saw his fame spreading with concert tours in USA, Canada, and his native Australia, where he performed concertos with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, amongst others. He made several records and was recorded for TV and radio in many countries.

From his home at Dairy Cottage in Caterham, he was able to teach piano to beginners and more advanced students, as well as teaching for the Open University and the Royal Academy of Music. He was Music Director of Croydon Opera Group for many years, was guest lecturer at several music colleges. He composed several works which are lodged in the library of the Sydney Conservatorium.