Best known to record collectors for his superb series for Decca of the complete organ works of JS Bach, Peter Hurford has died at the age of 88.
After school at Blundell’s in Devon, Hurford studied with Harold Drake before reading music and law at Cambridge. He then opted for music and worked in Paris with André Marchal who introduced him to the riches of French organ music. In 1956 he took up the post of organist at Holy Trinity, Leamington Spa; he also taught music at Bablake School in Coventry. In 1958 he moved to St Albans where he served as organist and Music of Music for 20 years. During his time in the city, he also established an organ competition, inspired by the installation of a new Harrison & Harrison organ designed by himself and Ralph Downes. The competition, which blossomed into the St Albans International Organ Festival, honoured some now major names in the organ world, players like Gillian Weir, David Sanger, Thomas Trotter, Kevin Bowyer and, in the improvisation category, André Isoir, Naji Hakim, David Briggs and Martin Baker.
Hurford recorded extensively, mainly for Decca, and his discography includes a fine set of the Handel organ concertos Op 7 made with the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra and Joshua Rifkin (‘Hurford's playing is regular and vigorous, matching the full-blooded pounce of Rifkin's direction, all as fresh as a new-laid egg’ as Gordon Reynolds put it inimitably in November 1986) as well as the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony and Poulenc Organ Concerto with the Montreal SO and Charles Dutoit. Volume 3 of his complete Bach won Gramophone’s Instrumental Award in 1979.
He wrote a book, Making Music on the Organ (OUP: 1998) and also composed much liturgical music, including Litany for the Holy Spirit, his most-performed work.