A native of Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland, Robert lived in Metz, France from 1981 until 2002, where he conducted for several years at the Municipal Theatre, as well as frequently guest conducting l’Orchestre National de Lorraine, l’Orchestre de Chambre de Metz and his own ‘Nouvel Ensemble Instrumental’. He became a French citizen in 1988.
From 1990 to 1993 Robert was Principal Conductor of the Tirgu Mures Philharmonic, Romania. From 1992 to 1998 he held the position of Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Hungary, an orchestra which he brought on a successful tour of Ireland in 1996, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising.
Robert Houlihan’s festival appearances include the BBC Proms and the Almeida Festival, London, The Budapest Spring Festival and the Bartok Festival, Hungary, The Summer Festival, Amsterdam and the Wurzburg Mozart Festival, Germany, to name a few.
Robert has conducted over 100 different orchestras since he began his career. More recently he was invited to conduct the orchestras of Tours (France), The Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the National Opera House, Maribor (Slovenia).
Robert has a wide range of repertoire covering various genres, from Baroque to the great repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as Opera, Operetta and Ballet.
Due to his solid and precise technique, corroborated by the international press, he is very often invited to conduct demanding new contemporary works. He has also worked successfully with soloists of international renown such as Maxim Vengerov, Olivier Charlier, Javier Camarena, Rebecca Olvera, Lesley Garret, Istvan Ruha, Miklos Perenyi, Patrick Gallois, Joaquin Achucarro, John O Conor and more.
In addition to his conducting appearances, Robert has recorded the works of major Irish composers (with both RTE Orchestras) and is in much demand as a teacher, giving classes in Ireland (for the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras), France, Holland, Portugal and Hungary. In 1987 and 1989 Robert organised and conducted two tours with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland to France, Luxemburg and Belgium and a third tour in 1994 to Hungary.
From 1989 until 2013 he reserved two weeks in August each year to tutor with the late George Hurst on the conducting faculty at the renowned Sherborne(formerly Canford) Summer School of Music, Sherborne, England. Since 2014 Robert has been teaching masterclasses twice a year at his home in Kerry, Ireland, with students coming from Europe and beyond.
Robert Houlihan returned to live in his native Ireland in December 2002. He now appears as a guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the RTE Concert Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra as well as other European Orchestras.


  • Orchestre National de Lorraine, France
  • Orchestre des Pays de La Loire, France
  • Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice, France
  • Philharmonie Südwestfalen, Germany
  • Philharmonie Würzburg, Germany
  • Nürnberg Symphoniker, Germany
  • Gera Symphony Orchestra, Germany
  • Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Hungary
  • Hungarian Radio Orchestra, Hungary
  • Franz Liszt Orchestra, Hungary
  • RTE National Symphony Orchestra, Ireland
  • RTE Concert Orchestra, Ireland
  • Irish Chamber Orchestra
  • Ulster Orchestra, Northern Ireland
  • Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
  • OFUNAM Philharmonic Orchestra, Mexico
  • North Holland Orchestra, The Netherlands
  • Chamber Philharmonic, Gdansk, Poland
  • Orquestra Nacional do Porto, Portugal
  • Tirgu-Mures Philharmonic Orchestra, Romania
  • Enescu Philharmonic Bucarest, Romania
  • Filarmonica Cluj, Romania
  • Filarmonica Brasov, Romania
  • Maribor Philharmonic Orchestra, Slovenia
  • National Symphony Orchestra of South Africa
  • Filharmonica Gran Canaria, Spain
  • Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi, San Sebastian, Spain
  • Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Switzerland
  • BBC Philharmonic, UK
  • BBC Scottish Symphony, UK
  • Woodstock Mozart Festival Orchestra, Illinois, USA
  • Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Venezuela
  • Caracas Municipal Orchestra, Venezuela


Robert Houlihan a l'art de démythifier l'univers de la musique classique, d'inciter le public à s'approprier à la fois un répertoire et un orchestre.

Republicain Lorrain

Die Symphoniker spielten brilliant. Houlihan wusste sie zu animieren, die Rhythmen zündeten, Schlagzeuger und Bläser klangen nie grob, die Sache hatte Eleganz. Die Symphoniker folgten aufmerksam den Impulsen des Dirigenten, der sich hier heimisch fühlte

Nurnberger Zeitung

The Ulster Orchestra, under  Robert Houlihan, offered a performance bursting with ebullient energy.

The Guardian

He has a romantic temperament to kindle Tchaikovsky to an impressive blaze. 

Irish Times

C'est bien joué et la musique tissée sur le métier arachnéen d'un de nos plus délicats compositeurs français est traitée avec goût et entrain sous la baguette de Robert Houlihan.

Republicain Lorrain

The Ulster Orchestra under Robert Houlihan gave the right exciting impression of working right at their limits.

The Times

Under a completely dependable Robert Houlihan, the National Symphony Orchestra matched the sureness and freshness of the music with sure, fresh execution."

Irish Times

The Ulster Orchestra played with great  verve and panache under Robert Houlihan.

Financial Times


"As a pianist, I have played with Robert Houlihan on many occasions. His control of the orchestra is superb and his feeling for the style, character, and sensitivity of the music is wonderful. The resultant performance is always very exciting."

John O'Connor

International Pianist, and Teacher / Former Director of the Royal Academy of Music / Artistic Director of the Dublin International Piano Competition.

"Robert Houlihan directed Elgar’s 2nd Symphony with authority, a sensitive ear for balance, firm and clear baton technique and a genuine Elgarian style.....
.....His authority brought Dvorak’s 8th Symphony to vivid life and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland shared a real inner command of the very technically challenging passages for all sections – clear evidence of very constructive rehearsals."

Brendan o’ Brien

Leader of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (1968 - 1997)

“J’ai pu constater le souci permanent de Robert Houlihan d’être a l’écoute non seulement des musiciens mais de l’administration de l’orchestre avec laquelle les projects étaient construits. Il est un chef d’orcheste très sensible a l’elargissement des publics et toutes ses idées de programmation tenaient compte de cet problématique."

Pascal Schwan

Former Administrateur General, Orchestre National de Lorraine, France


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