Biography

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Photograph of Terence Charlston by Ben McKee taken at Fenton House, London, by kind permission.

Terence Charlston is an internationally recognised specialist performer on early keyboard instruments and widely acknowledged for his engaging virtuosity and expressive communication. He has been described as one of Britain’s leading early keyboard players and his sympathetic command of original instruments has made him a frequent performer at collections of early keyboard instruments all over the world. Over the last 30 years, he has built an enviably broad career as a solo performer and chamber musician, choral and orchestral director, teacher and academic researcher.

Terence Charlston was born in Blackpool, Lancashire. From an early age, he was drawn to the sound and repertoire of old instruments, especially the harpsichord, which he first experienced through recordings and BBC Radio 3 broadcasts. He received piano and organ lessons locally, played in local churches, and later, whilst organ scholar at St. John's Parish Church, Blackpool, he was taught organ by Ian Hare at Lancaster University. He studied music at Keble College, Oxford, where he was organ scholar, and his early performing career began in church music. At university his organ teachers were Peter Hurford and Nicolas Kynaston, and during two years as organ scholar at Westminster Cathedral in London, David Sanger. His focus steadily broadened to include harpsichord and clavichord and he went on to study harpsichord with Virginia Black and John Toll at the Royal Academy of Music in London where he held a British Academy State Studentship and later the Meaker Fellowship. During these formative years he was inspired by many important harpsichord players particularly Kenneth Gilbert and Gustav Leonhardt, and embarked upon realising the touch and sound sensibilities which have made his playing so distinctive.

His versatile and eclectic career quickly gained an international profile and he remains much in demand as an historically inspired interpreter, keyboard soloist, chamber musician and director. As a harpsichordist and organist, he has toured extensively within Europe, as well as to Japan, the USA and South America giving courses and master classes in Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico and the USA. He is well known to chamber music audiences and performs and records with many of today’s leading period singers, instrumentalists and ensembles. He was a member of the quartet London Baroque between 1995 and 2007 with whom he gave nearly 500 concerts worldwide, and since 2011 is a core member of Florilegium. His wide repertoire and numerous recordings span the Middle Ages to the present day and reflect his commitment to keyboard music of all types and styles. His has recorded on harpsichord, organ, virginals, clavichord and fortepiano, and as vocal and ensemble director.

He is passionately interested in keyboard music of all periods and his harpsichord and organ recordings have been well received in the musical press. His recorded repertoire is particularly broad and can be heard on the ASV, BIS, Chandos, Channel Classics, Deux-Elles, Divine Art, Harmonia Mundi, and Naxos labels. For the National Trust he has recorded all the playable keyboard instruments of the Fenton House Collection in Hampstead, London. For the Royal College of Music Museum he recently made audio and video recordings on six of the playable plucked keyboard instruments and one clavichord in the collection: Clavichord, Clavicytherium, Kirkman Harpsichord, Neapolitan Harpsichord, Weber Harpsichord, Spinet. He has recorded the contents of RCM MS 2093 on the virginals by Stephen Keene, London, 1668 and harpsichord by Thomas Barton, London, 1709 at the University of Edinburgh, Musical Instruments Museum. He recently gave solo recitals in Slovakia and Scandinavia and toured North America giving concerts and master classes at Lawrence, Case Western and Yale Universities, and the Julliard School.  

In addition to an international performing career, he is much in demand as a teacher. He teaches harpsichord at the Royal College of Music in London where he was appointed Professor of Harpsichord in 2007, and Chair of Historical Keyboard Instruments, a personal chair created for him, in 2016. Previously, he taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London where he founded its department of Historical Performance in 1995. He lectures for the Lawrence University London Centre and has given master classes in Italy, Germany, Greece, USA and Mexico. Based in the south of England, he is proud to maintain links with his Lancastrian roots through the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where he is International Visiting Tutor in Harpsichord Studies. His extensive collection of copies and reconstructions of historical keyboard instruments is used for concerts and recordings and is available to his teaching studio.

Terence is an important advocate of European keyboard music of the 17th and 18th centuries — a reflection of his artistic fascination with and critically acclaimed interpretations of this repertoire — and he has initiated a number of pioneering concerts and recording projects. These include editions and recordings of all Matthew Locke’s organ and harpsichord music, Carlo Ignazio Monza’s Pièces modernes pour le Clavecin, a recording and interactive edition of the keyboard music of Albertus Bryne, and William Byrd’s My Ladye Nevells Booke which can be heard on the British Library’s Turning Pages. His ‘Harmonious Thuringian’ and ‘Mersenne’s Clavichord’ albums are considered exemplary models of practice-led research drawing together  meticulous organological and musicological enquiry with intuitive performance insight. He made the world premiere recording of the recently discovered keyboard manuscript of Antoine Selosse and is co-editing a six-volume facsimile series, English Keyboard Music c.1650– c.1700.

Over the last five years he has helped to guide the exciting young vocal ensemble Amici Voices. He has guest directed most of their concerts and recording projects including the Bach Passions, Christmas Oratorio, Mass in B Minor and two recordings, one of music from the time of the battle of Agincourt and the other of Bach cantatas BWV 106 and 182 and the motet Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229.

 

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Double-manual harpsichord after Ruckers 1624 by Andrew Garlick, 1998.