Robert Irvine was born in Glasgow and at the age of 16 was awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Music (RCM) where he studied with Christopher Bunting and Amaryllis Fleming. While there he won most of the major prizes in chamber music and solo playing. After leaving the RCM, he studied with William Pleeth and Pierre Fournier, before joining the Philharmonia Orchestra as sub principal cello.
He also worked extensively at Aldeburgh, forming the Brindisi String Quartet and working closely with Sir Peter Pears as continuo cellist and as principal cellist of the Britten Pears Orchestra. At this time he toured much of Europe with the Brindisi Quartet, making numerous festival appearances and broadcasts. He left the Philharmonia in 1988 to take up the position of principal cello with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, touring extensively.
In 1990 he returned to Scotland to take up the post of principal cellist with Scottish Opera Orchestra, and founded the Chamber Group of Scotland with Sally Beamish and James MacMillan, performing and broadcasting a wide range of both chamber and solo music.
He is artistic director of the Red Note Ensemble which specialises in contemporary repertoire, and has a busy schedule of projects throughout the UK and Europe.
He has broadcast frequently as soloist and chamber musician on BBC television and Radio 3, including several live performances on “In Tune.”
He is a founder member of the Da Vinci Piano Trio, who play and broadcast widely in the UK, and also performs regularly with Allan Neave, guitar. He has performed concerts and recitals throughout the UK, including the Cheltenham Festival, St Magnus Festival, Aldeburgh, Gloucester, Norwich, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, as well as several European festivals and at International Musicians Seminar (IMS) Prussia Cove.
He has recorded several critically acclaimed CDs, including the cello works of Sally Beamish for the BIS label, Dallapiccola solo works, the cello music of Giles Swayne, and the Rachmaninov and Shostakovich sonatas for the Delphian label.
He is a senior professor of Cello and Chamber Music, and Head of Cello Studies at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire (formerly RSAMD) in Glasgow.