Brian Barker

Principal Timpanist of the Philharmonic State Orchestra of Hamburg since 2006.

Brian Barker - Philharmonic State Orchestra of Hamburg

My thoughts about being a timpanist

The timpanist has one of the most particular roles in the orchestra. They can push the orchestra to dramatic heights, they can color the most subtle moments, and not least, they profoundly influence the character of any moment in which they play. What responsibility!

The loudest stroke, the subtlest roll, and all the moments in between are simply exhilarating. Having the power to shape phrases in distinctive (and unmistakable) ways, to decide to flow with the orchestra or push and pull them, requires immense concentration and a profound knowledge of the entirety of the score in question. Only through in-depth study can one truly cease to play our instrument and achieve symbiosis with the orchestra.

My career so far

Born in 1976 in Ottawa, Canada, Mr Barker began his studies in his hometown before continuing with Pierre Béluse in Montreal. In 2002 he moved to Berlin to study with Rainer Seegers of the Berlin Philharmonic, winning the position of Timpanist in the Staatskapelle Schwerin in 2004. In 2006 he was appointed Principal Timpanist of the Philharmonic State Orchestra of Hamburg. He spent the 2014-2015 season as a guest Principal Timpanist at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

Guest appearances have seen him perform with such ensembles as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Academy of Santa Cecilia, the Bavarian State Opera, and the Sydney Symphony. He has worked with such conductors as Kirill Petrenko, Zubin Mehta, Daniele Gatti, Riccardo Chailly, Semyon Bychkov, Antonio Pappano, Bernard Haitink, Paavo Järvi and Kent Nagano.

My Timpani

Hardtke Berlin Classic with narrow lip 78, 72, 66, and 62cm
Hardtke Berlin Classic with larger lip, 81, 74, 66, 60 and 54cm

Why I play Hardtke Timpani

Wolfgang and Marco Hardtke have created instruments that provide warmth and exceptional clarity. There is no other successor to the Ringer line who captures the essence of what a German timpani should sound like. Incredible depth, full tone, bright articulation, sharp attack, warm legato tone: everything is possible with these instruments!

My Mallets

I am very privileged to use mallets by Akihiro Kato, Jens-Peter Kappert, Christoph Nünchert, Helmut Rosenthal and Andreas Steiner. They are the library from which I choose my sounds, and between them, they allow me to express my ideas in any situation.

Timpani Heads

I use Kalfo calf-skin heads on all my drums. There is nothing comparable to the sound of these heads. I prefer thinner heads, as I feel I can adjust the depth of the sound in more ways.


Meet the orchestra – Philharmonic State Orchestra of Hamburg