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Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Interesting contrast of advanced technology and music from another age. (Review by Michael Green)

Peter Medhurst is a multi-talented musician from London. He plays the piano and the harpsichord, he sings, he directs choirs and instrumental groups, and he lectures in many parts of the world.

He does all these things at a top professional level. He has made several CDs on which he sings (baritone) and plays the harpsichord, he is a duo player of distinction, he has broadcast talks on many radio programmes, and he lectures at two British universities.

His background and training have equipped him well for all these tasks. Born of English and German parents, he attended the Royal College of Music in London, where he graduated in 1977, and later studied in Austria and with the celebrated English harpsichordist Ruth Dyson. She became his fellow duettist for many years before her death in 1997.

This remarkably versatile man has been on his fourth visit to South Africa (he has also been as far afield as Australia and New Zealand), and he totally beguiled an audience of more than 200 at a meeting in Durban of the Decorative Arts Society (Darts). He gave a lecture about music in the great art collections of Europe.

The presentation was an interesting contrast of advanced technology (magnificent colour photographs taken by Peter Medhurst himself and projected on to a big screen) and music from another age (played on a harpsichord, a symbol of the 18th century); like the hymn book, ancient and modern.

The scene was set at the outset with a contemporary portrait of Queen Elizabeth I and a harpsichord piece from 1610 by John Dowland. There followed pictures of stately homes, notably Burghley House, home of the Cecil family, and various museums, the famous and the less well known.

The lecturer discussed the art treasures in these places and in particular those with musical connections. For example, there was a large and splendidly detailed painting of members of the Sharp family on board their barge, Apollo. In the 1760s and 70s they made regular musical cruises on the Thames, playing and singing to the populace (often performing Handel).

Peter Medhurst played and sang music by Henry Purcell, Thomas Arne and others, giving great pleasure with a baritone voice that is powerful and accurate;  and he played tape music.

He is an expert communicator with a well-developed sense of humour and a delightfully informal approach to a subject that could be all too serious in other hands. He delighted us all, and in doing so he did a service to the cause of music and art. - Michael Green