Colin Tilney | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Colin Tilney

Colin (Graham) Tilney. Harpsichordist, fortepianist, performer of Baroque keyboard music, teacher, b London 31 Oct 1933; BA modern languages and music (King's College, Cambridge) 1958, B MUS (Cambridge) 1959.

Tilney, Colin

Colin (Graham) Tilney. Harpsichordist, fortepianist, performer of Baroque keyboard music, teacher, b London 31 Oct 1933; BA modern languages and music (King's College, Cambridge) 1958, B MUS (Cambridge) 1959. Tilney studied harpsichord with Mary Potts (a pupil of Arnold Dolmetsch) at King's College, Cambridge, and later had occasional lessons with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. After graduation and following several years as a piano accompanist and opera coach for Sadler's Wells and the New Opera Company in London, he decided to confine his performance and teaching activities to early keyboard instruments, including harpsichord, clavichord, chamber organ, and fortepiano.

He appeared in 1964 as the harpsichordist under Stravinsky on a Columbia recording of the composer's opera The Rake's Progress (M3L-310/Sony SX22K-46290 CD), and in general has shown much interest in contemporary music. He gave the first London performance of Hans Werner Henze's Lucy Escott variations; commissioned works by Elisabeth Lutyens and the South African composer Priaulx Rainier (Quinque, 1973); and regularly plays music by modern writers in recital.

Activities in Canada

Tilney performed with English tenor Nigel Rogers in 1974 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, and in 1979 and 1980 gave recitals, master classes, and early music workshops at the University of British Columbia. He moved to Canada in October 1979, settling in Toronto and teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Music and at the University of Toronto. He has performed frequently with Tafelmusik and the Toronto Consort, been repetiteur for the Canadian Opera Company on occasion, contributed to new music concerts and recorded solo and ensemble music for the CBC. In 1985 he formed the chamber ensemble Les Coucous Bénévoles, initially to celebrate Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti, later - with the participation of flutist Elissa Poole - adding modern Canadian works.

Recordings and Other Activities

Tilney recorded music by R. Murray Schafer (Concerto for Harpsichord and Eight Wind Instruments), Linda Catlin Smith (Gravity - written for Tilney), and Rodney Sharman (Kore). He has also recorded important early English keyboard collections (Parthenia, Matthew Locke, Purcell); works by Italian harpsichord composers (Frescobaldi, Scarlatti); and early Germans (Froberger, Kuhnau) alongside those of Handel (Suites, 1720) and Bach (7 Toccatas, the English Suites, the Well-Tempered Clavier - Book I clavichord, Book 2 harpsichord). He has played with many internationally known artists, including Wieland Kuijken, Jaap Schroeder, Michel Piguet, Stanley Ritchie, and Frans Bruggen, as well as more recently with Elissa Poole, Peter Hannan, and Marc Destrubé. Tilney was a jury member in several international harpsichord competitions: Bruges 1971, 1974, 1977; Paris 1975, 1989; and has taught at summer schools in Canada, Norway, Italy, Austria, Holland, England, and the US.

Publications; Tilney's Impact

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

Tilney is an important figure in the early wave of Canadian performance of Baroque and Classical music on original instruments. He is known world-wide for his interpretation and technique, his choice of appropriate sonorities, and his wide-ranging repertoire - from Elizabethan virginalists through Mozart to Louis Andriessen.


Bach The Seven Toccatas for Harpsichord. 1988. Dorian DOR-90115 (CD)

- Well-Tempered Clavier. (1990). Book I clavichord, Book II harpsichord. 4-Hyperion CDA-66351/4

- Concertos for 3 and 4 Harpsichords. 1989. The Academy of Ancient Music (Hogwood) Oiseau-Lyre 433 053-2 OH

- The Six English Suites. 1993. Music & Arts CD-777

- The Six Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord. Micaela Comberti violin. 2000. 2-Dorian DOR-93233/4

- Bach/C.P.E. Bach Music for oboe and harpsichord. Michel Piguet oboe. 1981. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 05472 77440 2

C.P.E. Bach Flute Concertos. Aitken flute, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Bernardi conductor. 1995. CBC SMCD 5177-2

- Trio Sonatas. Les Coucous Bénévoles. 1996 (1998). CBC MVCD 1117

Baroque Sonatas and Canzonas: Cima - A. Gabrieli - Bassano - Frescobaldi - Telemann - Handel. Hannan recorder, Thielmann gamba. 1985. CBC SMCD-5049

Byrd Harpsichord Music. 1974 (2000). EMI Reflexe 7243 8 26489 2 5

Circle with Tangents: harpsichord concertos by C.P.E. Bach, W.F. Bach, Walter Leigh, John Beckwith. CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Bernardi conductor. 1998.

Clérambault cantatas and instrumental music. Ann Monoyios soprano; Les Coucous Bénévoles. 2002. CBC MVCD 1152

Early English Organ Music: Bull - Gibbons - Tallis - et al. (1982, 2000). EMI Reflexe 7243 8 26525 2 6

English Mad Songs and Ayres (Purcell, Arne). Julianne Baird. 1987. Dorian DOR-90105

Elizabethan Songs and Dances. Byrd - Farnaby - Gibbons - Peerson - Bull. 1983. CBC Musica Viva MVCD-1021

Fanfarinette: Rameau - Daquin - Couperin - et al. 1987. CBC Musica Viva MVCD-1034

Flute Music of the 16th and 17th Century. Hadden fl, Renaissance Flute Consort. 1988. Hyperion CDA-66298 (CD)

French Harpsichord Music (Louis Couperin, Geoffroy). 1978; 1990. EEMI Reflexe CDM 7 63425 2

Frescobaldi Harpsichord Music. 1989. Dorian DOR-90124 (CD)

J.J. Froberger Music in the Italian Manner. 1976 (2000) EMI Reflexe 7243 8 26504 2 3

Gardens of Versailles - chamber music; Rameau, Hotteterre, F. Couperin, Linda Smith, Henry Kucharzyk, Les Coucous Bénévoles. 1994. Artifact ART 014

German Harpsichord Music: Böhm - Kuhnau - Pachelbel - Bach. (1978, 2000). EMI Reflexe 7243 8 26528 2 3

Go from my Window - Music for Virginal (Byrd, Gibbons, Bull, Sweelinck). 1993. Dorian DOR-90195

Peter Hannan: Generic Music for recorder and harpsichord, from Regarding Starlight. 1993. CBC MVCD 1055

Jewels (J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Buxtehude, Priaulx. Rainier, Linda Smith, Rodney Sharman). 1999 (2002). Doremi DDR-71140

Ladders to Heaven: 16 Domenico Scarlatti sonatas. 2000. Dorian DOR-93253

Locke Songs and instrumental music. 1981; 2000. EMI Reflexe 7243 8 26526 2 5

Locke Songs. Kwella soprano, Rogers tenor, Bailes therobo, Caudle voice da gamba, London Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble. (1981). EMI Reflexe 1C-069-46-404

Musica Dolce (Caccini, Monteverdi, Rossi, D'India). Julianne Baird. 1989. Dorian - DOR-90123

Purcell The Eight Suites for Harpsichord. (1979). Archiv 447 154-2 AP

Scarlatti Harpsichord Sonatas. (1981) Oiseau-Lyre 443 179-2 OM

- Scarlatti High and Low: 16 late sonatas. 1995. Music and Arts CD 907

- Sonatas. 1987. Dorian DOR-90103 (CD)

Schafer Concerto for Harpsichord and Eight Wind Instruments. Canadian Chamber Ensemble, Armenian conductor. 1988. Centrediscs CMC-CD-3488

S. Scheidt Ludi Musici (Part 1). 1978 (2000). Hesperion XX, Jordi Savall. EMI Reflexe 7243 8 26512 2 2

Sonatas for oboe and harpsichord: J.S. Bach - C.P.E. Bach. Piguet oboe. 1981. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 1C-069-99-939

Songs of Love and War (Caccini, Monteverdi, Handel, Hasse). Baird soprano. 1987. Dorian DOR-90104 (CD)

Songs of Mozart (soprano and fortepiano). Julianne Baird. 1992. Dorian DOR-90173

Colin Tilney plays Mozart (fortepiano). 2000. Doremi DDR-771137

- vol. 2. 2001. Doremi DDR-771139

- vol. 3. 2002. Doremi DDR-771142

- vol. 4. 2003. Doremi DDR-771144

Vivaldi: Six Sonatas for Cello. Ofra Harnoy cello. 1990. RCA 09026-60430-2

Prior to 1979 Tilney made some 35 recordings as a soloist and as an accompanist (continuo) released on Archiv, Argo, Columbia, EMI, Musica Rara, Nonesuch, Oiseau-Lyre, Oryx, Philharmonic, Peters, Pye, and Vanguard

Further Reading