Dutch pianist and musicologist Ralph van Raat, like his near-contemporary Steffen Schleiermacher, is in the unusual position of having established a thriving, major international performing career focusing entirely on music of the 20th and 21st centuries.
He has been a passionate advocate of new works and has performed the premieres of numerous pieces by living composers, some of which were written especially for him. With a few exceptions, he has gravitated to the music of postmodernist and eclectic composers rather than the more cerebral modernists of the mid 20th century.
Van Raat was born in the Netherlands in 1978 and studied piano and musicology at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. He went on to study with Ursula Oppens and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, both renowned specialists in the modern and contemporary repertoire that has dominated his career. He has received numerous international honors, including winning the Stipend-Prize Darmstadt, the Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition, and a Borletti-Buitoni Fellowship.
Van Raat tends to be a completist, learning a composer's complete set of works for piano, so what his catalog may lack in breadth and diversity is offset by its depth. His repertoire includes the complete solo piano works of Adams, Andriessen, Harvey, Lindberg, Takemitsu, and Tavener, and well as lesser-known Dutch composers like Theo Loevendie, Joep Franssens, and Guus Janssen. He has recorded the complete piano works of Adams, Andriessen, Lindberg, and Tavener. Four of his recordings for Naxos are among the label's 20 bestselling albums. In 2009 Naxos released a boxed set of all of the albums he had recorded for the label.
Van Raat's concerto repertoire is also focused almost exclusively on modern and contemporary works, the sole exception being Debussy's 1890 Fantaisie pour piano et orchestre, and it is heavily weighted toward works of the late 20th and early 21st century. Giel Vleggaar and Gavin Bryars have written concertos for him, both of which he has recorded, and he played the premiere of Frederic Rzewski's concerto Hard Cuts, also written for him. Orchestras with which he has performed include the BBC Symphony, the London Sinfonietta, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.