John Robertson, a New Zealand native and Canada resident, has composed works in most major classical music genres, from orchestra to opera. Born into a non-musical family, John was fascinated by classical music from a young age, taking courses in school and composing even while working in the insurance business. He spent three years in private study at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and had his first major public performance in 1987. Since then, John has continued to have his music performed, and his latest release with Navona Records, SYMPHONY NO. 1, showcases the compelling skills that John has developed over the years.

Today, John is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to find out about the uplifting message John hopes to convey in his music…

What is your guilty pleasure?

Greek yogurt! It seems too good to be good for you.

If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?

I’d still like to be a composer! Perhaps being a world-famous and much-performed one would be nice.

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

It was quite satisfying to hear the Variations played by a very good orchestra so that my calculated ‘effects’ came through, bearing in mind that this was the first piece that I had publicly performed.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose than the others?

The Symphony cost me a lot of work, especially the first movement which is constructed from small motives that had to appear in inverted counterpoint with each other. The slow movement too was worked over several time before the melodies, especially the second one that appears on the oboe, satisfied me.

What does this album mean to you personally?

I hope it will show that the second symphony, which was released on an album last year, was conceived as a contrast to the first symphony. Until this album appears, that won’t have been clear. The first is far grittier, the second more relaxed. Then the other two pieces on this album show a lighter touch which is not always a bad thing, especially these days when ‘serious’ music is so tortured and unsmiling. Is the world really such a desperately miserable place?

Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?

Life isn’t easy; it can be grim sometimes. Beauty is a wonderful thing turning up in unexpected places to buoy us up. On occasion things seem hopeless, and yet in the end, more often than not, there is light at the end of the tunnel.


SYMPHONY NO 1 is now available through Navona Records for streaming or purchase. Click here to explore this new album.

  • John Robertson

    (Ernest) John Robertson (b. 1943) was born in New Zealand but is a longtime resident of Canada. His secondary school offered music as a full time subject, allowing Robertson to find his footing. Upon leaving school, he went into the insurance business where he spent his working life. Having emigrated to Canada in 1967, he continued to compose on the side.