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Peter Hurford (22nd November 1930 - 3rd March 2019)

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Dr Peter Hurford has died.

A

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Sad news. I was given a copy of "Making Music On The Organ" as a present once. Not too long afterwards I got wind that he was giving a concert in bristol so I took the book along and he was kind enough to sign it. I still have the book.

May he rest in peace.

Dave

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I'll repeat here what I posted a little earlier on Facebook, that I am devastated to hear of his death. I have such happy memories of my two years of lessons with him during my second and final years at Cambridge, and I remain eternally grateful for the way he opened my ears and eyes to the playing of JS Bach (and others). He strove to ensure that musical line was at the heart of his students’ organ-playing - and, indeed, music-making in all its forms. I shall take down his boxed set of Bach Organ Works from the CD shelf (there's also the Franck, Hindemith and a more recent Bach recording), and relive his art. RIP Peter. Your influence on my musical development was immeasurable.

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Peter Hurford was an inspiration to many - his interpretations were models which enlightened much of the repertoire, especially from the Baroque period.  In my early teens, I was much taken with a 7" 45rpm recording of Guilain's Suite on the Second Tone made on the then new organ at the RCO.  It remains one of my favourite works from that school.  Later, I played in a master class on the Orgelbuchlein at Bristol.  PH's daughter, Heather was an exact contemporary of mine at Bristol University (although not reading Music).  His recordings and the St. Albans Festival will be lasting memorials.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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I met Peter Hurford when he opened the Nigel Church organ at Winlaton,Newcastle upon Tyne.

His enthusiastic vivacious playing there has long been a happy memory which encouraged me to seek out his many recordings.

In 2019 we are losing too many of organ “giants”  - Guillou,Rawsthorne now Hurford

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I remember Peter Hurford at Cambridge too! I also remember, in I think about 1966, him giving a master class on the Grant, Degens and Bradbeer organ in St. Martin's Hull and playing Bach afterwards. It was wonderful.

Like Britten - born on St. Cecilia's day - how appropriate!

May he rest in peace.

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I do vividly remember my first listen to Hurford Bach recordings in about 84 whilst doing "O" level music. Took the whole organ audio experience into a world of chiff,  mutation and nuance I'd not previously encountered. Stunning and powerful beyond words.

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Catherine Ennis presented Peter with the RCO Medal in March 2013. This is the late Patricia Hurford’s acceptance speech at the RCO Presentation at Southwark Cathedral:

It is sad that Peter is unable to be here to receive his medal in person; but he is comfortable and calm in a Home that is able to look after him properly. There are two things that I would like to say on his behalf, especially to all of you who have just received your ARCO or FRCO. He would want to congratulate you most warmly, and would be delighted that your musicianship and hard work have brought you thus far on the complex instrument that was foremost in his life and work. Secondly, he would want to say ‘Thank You’ for the honour of being awarded the medal by his colleagues, and how pleased he is to be in company with John Butt and Mark Venning.

To these two points I want to add one of my own. You will all have become such proficient organists for a variety of good reasons. To these I am going to add a further reason that you may not know about: Music, and organ playing in particular, are extremely good for your health, especially in later stages of life. Peter had a minor stroke when he was 67, and could not even lift his left hand onto the keyboard unaided immediately after it. The physiotherapist who came to treat him at our home said, "There is no exercise that I can give you that will help you nearly as much as playing the organ". Peter was giving concerts again within 7 months of his stroke. The blind French organist Jean Langlais recovered even faster, and gave a recital just 3 months after his stroke. Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease – already quite advanced – early in 2008, but his playing was still superb. He gave his last public performance in 2009. By the end of 2011 his illness was much worse and there were all sorts of ordinary things he could no longer do; but he could still play Bach. For 18 months of the last two years Peter and I have been to weekly gatherings organised by the Alzheimer's Society called 'Singing for the Brain'. Everybody there joined in with the singing, including some people who could no longer talk, yet they could sing words set to music. Thus music, and organ playing in particular, can make all sorts of otherwise unattainable things possible. So if you ever have a difficult or dreary practice session, as you come down from the organ loft you could mutter to yourself, "Well, at least it did my brain some good"!

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Hurford’s LP recording on the “Dutch Organ” at Eton was an absolute revelation for me.

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I was only wondering last week how old Peter Hurford was, and where he may be. Now I know the sad but inevitable truth, which I knew could not have been far away. I have many treasured recordings of him, and they will always be an inspiration in terms of scholarship combined with musicianship. A great loss to the organ world and the wider world of music. His recordings with John Willams (Guitar) can be heard on You Tube, and they are just delightful.

 

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Thanks for this Wolsey, I remember these programmes well.

A

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At his lunch-time recital in Hull City Hall today,  Peter King spoke movingly about Peter Hurford.  

He then played the Sonata in C minor by Giovanni Battista Pescetti, and dedicated his performance to the memory of Peter Hurford.

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Sei Gregrusset variations BWV 768 with Peter Hurford at the Beckerath in St Andreas Kirche Hildesheim

The penultimate and scorching final variation expresses to my mind an unique  fusion of Bach’s towering harmony,coupled with clarity of Beckerath delivered by that Master interpreter Hurford

 

https://youtu.be/A8RvZDeVvNm

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I first met Peter Hurford when he was the organist at St Albans Cathedral. This was during my music student days. I already regarded him as a great musician and performer, and I soon found that he was always willing to listen to me and offer good advice if I spoke to him about any questions or difficulties that I might have had over my own organ performance. He was one of the only English organists that I knew of that played Bach's organ works as if it was music from his own homeland, he understood it completely. And if I was working anywhere near where he was giving a concert, I would always try if I possibly could to get there to listen to him. A great man, a great musician in general but most important, probably the best English organist that this country has yet produced.

R.I.P  Peter Hurford. Now you'll probably be able to go and talk to Bach himself, and I'd really love to hear that conversation!  

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Maybe a long shot...I would like to get hold of a (however battered) second hand copy of Making Music at the Organ by PH. If anyone is downsizing so to speak (as we really should be) please PM.

Thanks

A

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