Recognised as "one of the brightest and most active English recitalists" who "plays with immaculate finish and buoyancy" (Classic CD), Stephen Farr is widely regarded as one of the finest organists of his generation, with a virtuoso technique and an impressive stylistic grasp of a wide-ranging repertoire. He combines a busy freelance playing career as soloist, continuo player and accompanist with the post of Director of Music at St Paul’s Knightsbridge, one of London’s most prominent churches.
One of the youngest musicians ever to receive support from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, Stephen Farr studied with Robert Munns and David Sanger in London and Cambridge. A subsequent grant from the Worshipful Company of Musicians (W.T. Best Scholarship) enabled him to receive further tuition from Piet Kee in Haarlem and Hans Fagius in Copenhagen. In 1984 he became Organ Scholar of Clare College Cambridge, where he obtained a double first in Music and a Master’s degree in Musicology. Posts at Christ Church Oxford and Winchester Cathedral preceded his appointment in 1999 as Organist of Guildford Cathedral, a position which he held until 2007. In 2014 he completed a PhD on the organ and harpsichord works of Judith Bingham.
Since winning the Royal College of Organists Performer of the Year in 1988 and prizes at international competitions in Odense, St Alban’s and Paisley, Stephen Farr has enjoyed recognition as a solo performer at international level, with appearances in North and South America, Australia – including a concerto performance in Sydney Opera House – and throughout Europe.
He maintains a regular broadcast presence, and as a recitalist has featured frequently in the main series of the major venues in the UK – among them St Paul’s Cathedral (where he has appeared twice in the Celebrity Series), Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, King’s College Cambridge, St David’s Hall Cardiff, St John’s Smith Square, Symphony Hall Birmingham, the Bridgewater Hall Manchester, the St David’s Festival, the Chester Festival and the Fairfield Halls. Other venues include La Trinité and Notre Dame in Paris, and the Laurenskerk, Alkmaar.
His concerto work has included engagements with the CBSO, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra and the London Mozart Players; he made his debut in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 2005. He also works frequently as a continuo and ensemble player with many other leading European ensembles, including the Berlin Philharmonic (with whom he appeared in the première of Jonathan Harvey’s ‘Weltethos’ under Sir Simon Rattle in October 2011), the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Bach Choir, Holst Singers, BBC Singers, English Concert, Polyphony, the Philharmonia, London Baroque Soloists, City of London Sinfonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Wallace Collection, Endymion Ensemble, Academy of Ancient Music, Britten Sinfonia, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Stephen Farr has a particular commitment to contemporary music, and has been involved in premieres of works by composers as diverse as Patrick Gowers, Francis Pott, Judith Bingham, and Poul Ruders. He also collaborated with Thomas Adès in a recording for EMI of the composer’s Under Hamelin Hill, part of an extensive and wide-ranging discography which includes repertoire from the 15th century to the present day; current projects include a recording of the complete organ works of Kenneth Leighton for Resonus Classics. He made his BBC Proms solo debut in 2011 in a concert which ‘Classical Music’ magazine selected as its premiere of the year, performing a major work – ‘The Everlasting Crown’ – which was written for him by Judith Bingham.
Recent projects include a series of recordings for Resonus Classics, which have met with unanimous critical acclaim; he is currently recording the complete organ works of Kenneth Leighton, the first player to do so.
J.S. Bach: Clavier-Übung III
In a strong field this performance must be in the top three.
Farr rises to the occasion, turning in performances that are as varied and vital as the music demands, intricate details inked with telling clarity and the elongated arc of the whole negotiated with nimble and nuanced aplomb. Superb recorded sound.
Choir and Organ (*****)
All lovers of Bach's music should be prepared to order this new Resonus recording [...] I was so completely sold on this new recording I have no real reservations.
MusicWeb International ('Recording of the Month')
Kenneth Leighton Organ Works, Volume 1
With unimpeachable performances and sound, do explore this rewarding, and surely award-winning, release.
Classical Ear (*****)
[…] it is the sheer musical quality of Farr’s playing and his obvious sensitivity towards the rhythmic and textural detail of Leighton’s music which makes this a hugely impressive release.
Judith Bingham: The Everlasting Crown
[...] Farr is utterly outstanding, tracing the music across the seven movements with a kind of inexorable inevitability [...] a great deal of subtle colour emerges [...] repeated listening of this is an absolute pleasure.'
International Record Review
Farr [‘s…] breadth of vision, intense sense of purpose and brilliant technique combine to make this a recording which, every bit as much as Bingham’s music itself, deserves repeated listening.’
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