Peter Hurford

Biography

Born: November 22, 1930; Minehead, Somerset  
Trained in both music and law, Peter Hurford has enjoyed an enviable reputation for both his organ playing and his musical scholarship. The latter has produced not only revised ideas about performance of early music, but also different notions about the construction of the instruments upon which such music ought to be played. His extensive recordings for the Decca label (earlier, London Records in the United States) have passed into the realm of Read more the legendary and his live performances have attracted positive reviews, as well as stimulating numerous discussions regarding performance practice and the art of organ building.

After initial studies with Harold Darke, the famous and much-respected English organist and composer, Hurford read both music and law at Jesus College, Cambridge University, graduating with dual degrees. Through study in Paris with the blind French organist André Marchal, Hurford explored the music of the Baroque period, with a particular emphasis on J.S. Bach and the French masters, and he acquired something of his teacher's brilliance as an improviser. His own singular notions of authentic performing style also took form at that time and were soon regularly implemented before the public once he had received an appointment as music master at St. Albans Abbey in 1958. There, he experimented, rebuilt the organ to comply with his convictions, and soon began to attract the attention of other English organists unsatisfied with the traditional and often heavy-handed Baroque style customarily heard in English churches. By 1963, Hurford's stature made possible the immediate success of the International Organ Festival he devised for St. Albans. There, organists and organ scholars were able to gather to hear and discuss performances and share scholarly findings regarding performance style, registration, repertory, and audience building. Winners of competitions at the St. Albans Festival have included such international virtuosos as Gillian Weir and Thomas Trotter. Many a competitor counted himself fortunate to have received an autographed copy of Hurford's recordings of Bach's complete organ works. After decades at St. Albans, Hurford resigned to fulfill the demand for solo performances. By that time, his recordings had made his name a familiar one even to those who had not heard him in live performance. In addition to his concert appearances, Hurford began to devote time to teaching and made himself a welcome visiting scholar in numerous venues, especially in England and the United States. After having worked out his ideas during several decades of lecturing and performance, Hurford assembled them in written form in his book Making Music on the Organ, published in 1988. The simple, direct title conceals a wealth of carefully considered issues and effective solutions to them. Hurford also achieved some renown as a composer of organ works and choral pieces. Mostly dating from his St. Albans years, some of them are flowingly lyrical while others are joyously animated. All reflect Hurford's skill and inclinations as an improviser. Hurford's largest recording project was putting on disc the complete organ works of Bach, a project that began in the 1970s. The full set is still available (now in remastered sound) along side a smaller, two-disc set of highlights. Another double-disc set of organ masses by Couperin is also a seminal issue. Hurford's often-brisk tempi and variety of registration decidedly changed organ performance; both sets demonstrate why. Read less
Browse 1-14 of 14 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    The Feast Of St. David: Music For Mattins, Eucharist And Evensong
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 1178397 Release Date: 06/04/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William P. Rowlands,  Thomas Tomkins,  Peter Hurford,  William Mathias  ... 
    Performer:  Simon Pearce,  Arwel Davies,  Ieuan [Bass (Vocal)] Anthony,  Amy Barwick  ... 
    Conductor:  Daniel Cook
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  • 2.
    We Sing Of God
    Label: Pro Organo   Catalog: 7238 Release Date: 10/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sidney Campbell,  McNeil Robinson,  Herbert Howells,  John E. West  ... 
    Performer:  Naomi Devires Pomerantz,  Robert McCormick
    Conductor:  Robert McCormick
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  • 3.
    Label: Pierre Verany   Catalog: 919607 Release Date: 04/07/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jeff Tyzik,  Peter Hurford,  Germaine Tailleferre,  Henry Purcell  ... 
    Performer:  Marianne Muller [Viola da Gamba],  Alice Piérot,  Florence Malgoire,  Aline Zylberajch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Nieces de Rameau
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  • 4.
    God Be In My Head - Lallouette, Etc / Freddy De Rivaz
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 7308 Release Date: 03/13/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonio Caldara,  Carl Orff,  Benjamin Britten,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  James Davy,  Freddy de Rivas,  Simon Johnson,  Nicholas Robinson
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  • 5.
    19th And 20th Century Organ Music / John Sanders
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 932 Release Date: 08/30/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Basil Harwood,  Frank Bridge,  Herbert Howells,  Peter Hurford  ... 
    Performer:  John Derek Sanders
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  • 6.
    English Choral Music / Robinson, Choir Of St. John's College
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8557557-58 Release Date: 03/22/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  John Tavener,  Kenneth Leighton,  Lennox Berkeley,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Performer:  Crispian Steele-Perkins,  Oliver Lepage-Dean,  Iain Farrington
    Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St. John's College Choir
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  • 7.
    Organ Voices / Soria
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3343 Release Date: 03/15/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Théodore Dubois,  César Franck,  Hugh McAmis,  Olivier Messiaen  ... 
    Performer:  Samuel S. Soria
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  • 8.
    Fanfare Ii - A Whirlwind Tour Of 30 More World Famous Organs
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 5001 Release Date: 01/27/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Matthias Weckmann,  William Henry Harris,  Gustav Adolf Merkel,  Marcel Dupré  ... 
    Performer:  Konstantin Reymaier,  David Briggs,  Adrian Partington,  Jane Watts  ... 
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  • 9.
    Passiontide - Music For Solace And Reflection / Gray, Stokes
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8557025 Release Date: 05/20/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gottfried H. Stölzel,  Antonio Lotti,  Edward Miller,  Maurice Greene  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Stokes,  Emily Gray,  Jeffrey Makinson,  Claire Buckley  ... 
    Conductor:  Christopher Stokes
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Manchester Cathedral Choir
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  • 10.
    Great European Organs Vol 61 - St Laurens' Church, Rotterdam
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 689 Release Date: 05/28/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Peter Racine Fricker,  Egon Wellesz,  Georg Böhm  ... 
    Performer:  Roger Judd
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  • 11.
    Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis Vol 19 / Mcclintock, Et Al
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 633 Release Date: 08/24/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Herbert Sumsion,  Peter Hurford,  Healey Willan,  George Dyson  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Gray
    Conductor:  Nigel McClintock
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Belfast St. George's Church Choir
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  • 12.
    Magnificat And Nunc Dimittis Vol 16 / Worcester Cathedral
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 630 Release Date: 06/29/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ivor Atkins,  Donald Hunt,  Robert Parsons,  Peter Hurford  ... 
    Performer:  Daniel Phillips
    Conductor:  Adrian Lucas
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Worcester Cathedral Choir
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 13.
    Easter - Hymns, Carols & Anthems / Foster, Phillips, Et Al
    Label: Gothic Records   Catalog: 49097 Release Date: 03/17/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Traditional,  Peter Hurford,  Henry John Gauntlett  ... 
    Performer:  Phoebe Alexander,  Craig Phillips,  Casey Criste,  William Hanrahan  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Foster
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saint's Episcopal Church Choir Beverly Hills,  All Saints' Brass Ensemble
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  • 14.
    Millenium Of Music / Neary, Westminster Abbey Choir
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 66614 Release Date: 08/22/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Orlando Gibbons,  William Cornysh,  John Tyes,  Peter Hurford  ... 
    Performer:  Martin Baker
    Conductor:  Martin Neary
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Abbey Choir,  English Chamber Orchestra
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