Colin Tilney

B.A., M.Mus. (King's College)
Adjunct Faculty
Harpsichord, keyboard literature

MacLaurin Building (Music Wing)
By Appointment

Brief Biography

Internationally known performer of music for harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano. Born London, 31 October 1933.  BA degrees in German, Russian and Music (King’s College, Cambridge) 1958; Bachelor of Music 1959. Began studying harpsichord there with Mary Potts (pupil of Arnold Dolmetsch); he later worked for short periods with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. After graduation, following several years as a piano accompanist and as a repetiteur for Sadler’s Wells and the New Opera Company in London, he decided to confine his performance and teaching activities to early keyboard instruments.

Among his more than thirty solo recordings for Decca, Deutsche Grammophon (Archive), EMI Electrola, Hyperion, Dorian and CBC SM5000 are important English keyboard collections (Parthenia, Matthew Locke, Purcell); Italian composers (Frescobaldi, Scarlatti); and works by early Germans (Froberger, Kuhnau), alongside those of Handel (Suites, 1720) and Bach (Toccatas, English Suites, Violin Sonatas, Well Tempered Clavier  - Book 1 clavichord, Book 2 harpsichord). In recent years he has begun recording for the Toronto label doremi: six CDs of Mozart on fortepiano; C.P.E. Bach on clavichord; French preludes and dances; and an anthology of ancient and modern favourites, Jewels.

Over the years Colin Tilney has played with many well known artists, including Wieland Kuijken, Jaap Schroeder, Michel Piguet, Stanley Ritchie and Frans Brüggen, as well as more recently with Elissa Poole, Peter Hannan and Marc Destrubé. He was a member of the jury in several international harpsichord competitions: Bruges 1971, 1974, 1977; Paris 1975, 1989; and has taught at summer schools in Norway, Italy, Austria, Holland, England, the USA and Canada. He appeared in 1964 as harpsichordist under Stravinsky in the composer’s Columbia recording of The Rake’s Progress and, in general, has shown much interest in contemporary music. He gave the first London performance of Henze’s Lucy Escott variations; has commissioned works by Elisabeth Lutyens and the South African composer Priaulx Rainier (Quinque, Purcell Room, 1973); and regularly offers modern music in his recitals. In Canada he has recorded music by R. Murray Schafer (Harpsichord and Winds Concerto, 1988), Linda C. Smith (Gravity - written for Tilney) and Rodney Sharman (Kore). While he lived in Toronto (1979 to 2002), he founded the chamber group, Les Coucous Bénévoles, initially to celebrate Bach, Handel and Scarlatti in 1985, later - with the flute player Elissa Poole - to add modern Canadian works to the earlier music.

He has edited previously unpublished harpsichord music by Antoine Forqueray (Heugel, Paris, 1970); devised The Art of the Unmeasured Prelude -  France 1660 to 1720 (Schott, London, 1991), a three-part study-edition (facsimile, transcriptions, commentary); and contributed a guide to performance for Wiener Urtext’s 1998 edition of Bach’s English Suites.

Living in Victoria since 2002, Colin Tilney has joined the music faculty at UVic, where he gives masterclasses, courses in early keyboard literature and solo recitals, plays with his colleagues and occasionally helps student pianists to enjoy continuo. Outside the university, he plays frequently with the Victoria Symphony, both as soloist (Bach D minor concerto) and as harpsichord accompanist.

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