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David Ponsford (Organ, Harpsichord)

Born: Cardiff, South Wales, UK

The English organist, harpsicghordist and musicologist, David Ponsford, won an exhibition to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he served as organ scholar and gained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists. Among his teachers he was fortunate enough to study organ with Peter Hurford and Lionel Rogg, and with Piet Kee at the Haarlem Summer Organ Academy. Later, he was awarded an Arts Council scholarship to study harpsichord with Kenneth Gilbert in Paris and with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. More recently he held a Research Studentship at Cardiff University, where he was awarded a Ph.D for his doctoral dissertation in French Baroque organ music under the supervision Professor Peter Williams. In 2005 he was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to continue his research, and to write a book on the subject for Cambridge University Press.

As an organist, harpsichordist and conductor, David Ponsford has travelled all over Europe, to America and to the Far East. His solo recordings for harpsichord and organ have been acclaimed in the national press, and he is regarded as one of the foremost experts in the performance practice of Baroque music, matching skills as a performer with those of a scholar.

David Ponsford began his career as Assistant Organist of Wells Cathedral, where he recorded his first disc of organ music and formed the Wells Cathedral Chamber Choir and Orchestra. This was followed by conductorships of Northampton Bach Choir and Cheltenham Bach Choir, with whom he directed performances of major works by Monteverdi, J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Bruckner and Igor Stravinsky, as well as performances of specially commissioned works by Christopher Steel, John Joubert and Trevor Hold. He also toured with the choir in France, Germany and Switzerland, and won a Performing Rights Society award. He established the English String Orchestra Choir and conducted regular concerts in Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey. At this time he was also a musical adviser to Yehudi Menuhin for performances of G.F. Handel’s Messiah in France.

As a soloist, David Ponsford has made solo organ and harpsichord recordings for Riverrun, Guild and NPC.
He recorded the the complete J.S. Bach Well-tempered Clavier, and during J.S. Bach’s anniversary year (2000) he recorded of all four parts of J. S. Bach’s Clavierübung on the organ and harpsichord, including the six Partitas (BWV 825-830), Italian Concerto (BWV 971) and French Overture (BWV 831), the Lutheran organ cycle and the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988). Since then he has recorded Parthenia (music by Byrd, Bull and Gibbons,1612) for Riverrun Records, and a recording of the historic c1670/1775 organ in Dingestow Court. He has given organ recitals throughout the UK as well as in France, Denmark and Germany, including concerts on the historic Silbermann organs in Freiberg and Dresden Cathedrals. During 2007 he played at the Bornholm International Organ Festival, Denmark, and during the current year will give organ recitals at The Queen’s College and Magdalen Colleges, Oxford, and King’s College, Cambridge.

David Ponsford has played and recorded with many chamber orchestras and choirs in the UK, appearing in major European festivals including BBC Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. As a chamber musician he has worked extensively with Jacqueline Ross with whom he has recorded the complete cycle of J.S. Bach violin sonatas for ASV Gaudeamus (3 CD's), and with Alan Davis with whom he has recorded the complete G.F. Handel recorder sonatas for Guild Records. As a continuo player, he has played with many of the major UK chamber orchestras and choral societies, and especially with Ex Cathedra with whom he has appeared in festivals in Belgium, France, Finland, the BBC Proms, and made recordings on the ASV and Hyperion labels. For Ex Cathedra’s recording of Charpentier’s Messe à quatre choeurs released by Hyperion in 2004, he recorded several organ improvisations in French Baroque style.

Currently, David Ponsford holds the posts of Associate Lecturer in Performance Practice at Cardiff University, Conductor of Cardiff University Chamber Orchestra, organ and harpsichord tutor at Bristol University and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, and harpsichord tutor to Specialist Musicians at Wells Cathedral School. In addition, he has taught on the Oundle organ courses, and is frequently invited to lecture at Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education where he runs courses in Baroque music focused on J.S. Bach. He has been invited to give lectures at Edinburgh, Queen’s Belfast and Bristol Universities, and has published articles in The Organ Yearbook, Musical Times, Choir & Organ and the Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies. In 2004 he was invited to lead the inaugural meeting of the Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies whose aim is to bridge the disciplines of scholarship and practical performance.

David Ponsford now lives in Gloucestershire and divides his time between concerts, recordings, research, lecturing and teaching. His edition of Biber’s Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas has recently been published by Ut Orpheus, Bologna, and he is collaborating with Kenneth Gilbert on a new edition of Nicolas de Grigny’s Livre d’orgue. He is under contract with Cambridge University Press to complete his monograph on French organ music during the reign of Louis XIV. He also holds honorary posts as a director of the Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies (CAOS) and Director of Publications for the British Institute of Organ Studies (BIOS). In teaching and performing he aims to combine executant skill with intellectual understanding, to bring the music alive with authority and meaning.

Source: David Ponsford Website; Cardiff University Website; Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2009)

David Ponsford: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

David Ponsford - Organist, Harpsichordist, Musicologist (Official Website)
Dr David Ponsford (Cardiff University - School of Music)

David Ponsford - Organ, Harpsichiord (Guild Music)
The Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies: Trustees

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