Peter Sykes

Peter Sykes - headshot in tux

Pe­ter Sykes is one of the most dis­tin­guished and ver­sa­tile key­board artists per­form­ing to­day.

His play­ing has var­i­ous­ly been called “com­pelling and mov­ing,” “mag­nif­i­cent and rev­e­la­to­ry,” and “bold, imag­i­na­tive, and amaz­ing­ly ac­cu­rate.” He has ap­peared in recital for the Amer­i­can Guild of Or­gan­ists, the South­east­ern His­tor­i­cal Key­board So­ci­ety, the Or­gan His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of Or­gan­builders, In­ter­na­tion­al So­ci­ety of Or­gan­builders, at the Li­brary of Con­gress, Boston Ear­ly Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, As­ton Magna Fes­ti­val, New Eng­land Bach Fes­ti­val, Port­land Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, New Hamp­shire Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, and with En­sem­ble Pro­ject Ars No­va, The King’s Noyse, Mu­si­ca An­ti­qua Köln, Blue Heron, and through­out the Unit­ed States, in­clud­ing an ap­pear­ance in Boston’s Jor­dan Hall as a fea­tured soloist in the Bank of Boston Emerg­ing Artists Celebri­ty Se­ries. He is fre­quent­ly heard on the na­tion­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed ra­dio pro­gram “Pipedreams.”  Ap­pear­ances in­clude an all-Bach in­au­gur­al recital on a new or­gan built by Fritz Noack for the Lang­holt­skirk­ja in Reyk­javik, Ice­land, Bach’s Gold­berg Vari­a­tions for the Cam­bridge So­ci­ety for Ear­ly Mu­sic and at Mu­sic Sources in Berke­ley, CA, Manuel de Fal­la’s Harp­si­chord Con­cer­to with the Chameleon Arts En­sem­ble, the Schu­mann Pi­ano Quin­tet on orig­i­nal in­stru­ments with the Van Swi­eten Quar­tet, Samuel Bar­ber’s or­gan con­cer­to Toc­ca­ta Fes­ti­va and a ped­al pi­ano recital of works of Schu­mann and Alkan at South­ern Ad­ven­tist Uni­ver­si­ty in Col­legedale, Ten­nessee. In March 2004 he was giv­en the hon­or of per­form­ing the ded­i­ca­tion recital on the new­ly re­stored 1800 Tan­nen­berg two-man­u­al or­gan in Old Salem, North Car­oli­na, an event fea­tured on the na­tion­al­ly broad­cast tele­vi­sion show CBS Sun­day Morn­ing. He was a mem­ber of the con­tin­uo team for the Boston Ear­ly Mu­sic Fes­ti­val opera pro­duc­tions of Cav­al­li’s Er­cole Amante, Lul­ly’s Thésée and Psyché and Con­ra­di’s Ari­adne. He al­so ap­pears reg­u­lar­ly in con­cert and on record­ings with Boston Baroque and As­ton Magna. With Christa Ra­kich he cre­at­ed Tues­days With Se­bas­t­ian, an in­de­pen­dent two-year ben­e­fit con­cert se­ries in which he and Ms. Ra­kich per­formed the en­tire key­board works of Jo­hann Se­bas­t­ian Bach for the or­gan and harp­si­chord in thir­ty-four recitals. He has pre­miered new works by Dan Lock­lair, James Wood­man, and Joel Mar­tin­son, and has per­formed well over twen­ty-five ded­i­ca­tion recitals for new or re­built or­gans. He al­so per­forms fre­quent­ly on the clavi­chord and was one of two fea­tured play­ers on this in­stru­ment at the 2009 Boston Ear­ly Mu­sic Fes­ti­val. In May 2011 he per­formed clavi­chord recitals for the British and Dutch Clavi­chord So­ci­eties in Lon­don and Am­s­ter­dam, at Fen­ton House in Lon­don and the Cobbe Col­lec­tion at Hatch­lands, and for the “Par­ty in the City” night of con­certs as part of the In­ter­na­tion­al Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Bath. In May and June 2014 he re­turned to Eu­rope for con­certs in­clud­ing Do­maene Dahlem in Berlin and St. Re­mi Basil­i­ca in Reims.

His so­lo record­ings in­clude J.S. Bach’s com­plete Leipzig Chorales record­ed on the Noack or­gan of the Lang­holt­skirk­ja in Reyk­javik, From The Heart­land – Two Nord­lie Or­gans in South Dako­ta,  Harp­si­chord Mu­sic of Couperin and Rameau, A Nan­tuck­et Or­gan Tour, MAX­i­mum Reger: Fa­vorite Or­gan Works, and Mod­ern Or­gan Mu­sic, a disc of mu­sic by Hin­demith, Heiller, Pinkham, Wood­man, and Ice­landic com­posers on the Noack or­gan in the Ne­skirk­ja in Reyk­javik. His best­selling record­ing of his or­gan tran­scrip­tion of Holst’s or­ches­tral suite The Plan­ets was named Best of 1996 by Au­dio Re­view, a Su­per CD by Ab­solute Sound in 1999, and gar­nered ac­co­lades in every re­view. He ap­pears on the Cam­bridge Bach En­sem­ble record­ing The Mus­es of Zion, per­form­ing or­gan works of Tun­der and Bux­te­hude on the Fisk mean­tone or­gan of Welles­ley Col­lege, the Mu­sic from As­ton Magna record­ing of the or­a­to­rio The Tri­umph of Time and Truth, in which he per­forms the first known or­gan con­cer­to move­ment of Han­del, a record­ing of the or­gan con­cer­to Cym­bale of Ju­lian Wach­n­er, and the Gram­my-nom­i­nat­ed Boston Baroque record­ings of Han­del’s Mes­si­ah, Bach’s B-Mi­nor Mass,  and Mon­tever­di’s Ves­pers. His most re­cent so­lo record­ings in­clude the ded­i­ca­tion recital on the Tan­nen­berg or­gan in Old Salem, avail­able on the Raven la­bel, an all-Bach record­ing on an orig­i­nal Schied­may­er clavi­chord, al­so on the Raven la­bel, and the com­plete Bach harp­si­chord par­ti­tas, avail­able on the Cen­taur la­bel. Soon to ap­pear will be Book I of Bach’s Well-Tem­pered Clavier and the com­plete Bach sonatas for vi­o­lin and ob­bli­ga­to harp­si­chord with Daniel Step­n­er.

He holds de­grees from the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­to­ry, where he stud­ied with Gabriel Cho­dos, Blanche Winogron, Mireille La­gacé, Robert Schune­man, and Yuko Hayashi, and Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty in Mon­tre­al, where he stud­ied with Bernard La­gacé. In 1978 he was win­ner of the Chad­wick Medal from the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­to­ry for out­stand­ing un­der­grad­u­ate achieve­ment; in the same year, he was a win­ner of the school’s an­nu­al con­cer­to com­pe­ti­tion, play­ing the Harp­si­chord Con­cer­to of Frank Mar­tin.  In 1983 he was the win­ner of the Boston Chap­ter Amer­i­can Guild of Or­gan­ists Young Artists Com­pe­ti­tion; in 1986, win­ner of the Sec­ond In­ter­na­tion­al Harp­si­chord Com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by the South­east­ern His­tor­i­cal Key­board So­ci­ety.  He was the 1993 lau­re­ate of the Er­win Bod­ky Award for ex­cel­lence in ear­ly mu­sic per­for­mance.  In May 2005 he re­ceived the Out­stand­ing Alum­ni award from the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­to­ry for ca­reer achieve­ment since grad­u­a­tion. In May 2011 he was hon­ored by the St. Botolph Club Foun­da­tion with its Dis­tin­guished Artist Award, a ma­jor gift award­ed an­nu­al­ly to an artist who has demon­strat­ed out­stand­ing tal­ent and an ex­cep­tion­al di­ver­si­ty of ac­com­plish­ment; pre­vi­ous re­cip­i­ents in­clude painter Ed­ward Hop­per, po­ets Eliz­a­beth Bish­op and Stan­ley Ku­nitz, sculp­tor Alexan­der Calder, and writ­ers George V. Hig­gins, An­nie Dil­lard, and Sis­sela Bok. The award let­ter char­ac­ter­ized him as “one of the ma­jor mu­si­cal in­tel­lects and imag­i­na­tions of our time.”

In de­mand as a teacher and men­tor of as­pir­ing pro­fes­sion­al per­form­ers, he is As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor of Mu­sic and Chair of the His­tor­i­cal Per­for­mance De­part­ment at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty. In the spring of 2014 he was in­vit­ed to join the fac­ul­ty of the His­tor­i­cal Per­for­mance De­part­ment at the Juil­liard School of Mu­sic in New York City as its prin­ci­pal in­struc­tor of harp­si­chord. Since 1985 he has served as Di­rec­tor of Mu­sic at First Church in Cam­bridge, Con­gre­ga­tion­al. He is Chair of the Or­gan Li­brary Com­mit­tee of the Boston Chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Guild of Or­gan­ists and has been ad­ju­di­ca­tor for com­pe­ti­tions spon­sored by the Amer­i­can Guild of Or­gan­ists, the Roy­al Cana­di­an Col­lege of Or­gan­ists, and the Bach In­ter­na­tion­al Harp­si­chord Fes­ti­val in Mon­tre­al as well as the Broad­wood Harp­si­chord Com­pe­ti­tion in Lon­don and the Mi­a­mi In­ter­na­tion­al Or­gan Com­pe­ti­tion. A mem­ber of the board of the Cam­bridge So­ci­ety for Ear­ly Mu­sic, he is a found­ing board mem­ber and cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Boston Clavi­chord So­ci­ety.