Paul Simmonds, born in London in 1949, was brought up in South Africa where he completed his initial musical studies (Bachelor of Music) at the Witwatersrand University with organ as principal instrument. The award of a scholarship enabled him to concentrate on the harpsichord under Stanislav Heller at the Freiburg Conservatoire in Germany. He continued his studies with Colin Tilney in London, with subsequent tuition from Gustav Leonhardt and Kenneth Gilbert.
After a successful debut at London’s Purcell Room in 1979 he embarked on a career as a freelance soloist and continuo player and has performed throughout Europe and beyond. In 1982 he moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he worked for eight years as an organist at one of the city churches. During this time he taught harpsichord and chamber music at the conservatoires of Karlsruhe and Mannheim in Germany, and at Biel (CH) where he also acted as external examiner for harpsichord diploma examinations.
As a continuo player he has performed with many of Europe’s leading early musicians. He performs regularly as a duo with the recorder and musette player Marianne Mezger and, with the addition of the gambist Ekkehard Weber, has given numerous recitals with Trio Basiliensis (CD and radio recordings).
Paul Simmonds is one of the few early keyboard players who give regular public concerts on the clavichord. His first CD devoted completely to the clavichord, “German Music for Clavichord”, was released in 1995 on the Ars Musici label and has received wide critical approval. A second release, devoted entirely to the much neglected works of Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, was awarded the prestigious ‘Deutscher Schallplatten Preis’. Subsequent recordings include cds of renaissance music played on a reproduction of the Pisaurensis clavichord, and the complete Polonaises and 8 Fugues by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach on an original Lindholm clavichord.
Paul Simmonds gives an annual four day course on aspects of clavichord playing at West Dean College, near Chichester, England. He has been a guest tutor at London’s Trinity College of Music. For 12 years he co-directed a monthly course for harpsichord, clavichord and performance practice in Switzerland, where he now lives. He has published numerous articles and reviews for Early Music, The Galpin Society Journal, Clavichord International and the journals of the British, Swiss and Boston clavichord societies. In addition he is an keen advocate of new music for early instruments and his repertoire includes pieces specially written for him. In 2004 he was artistic director and one of the judges for the first international competition for new music for the clavichord, promoted by the British Clavichord Society of which he is a founder member.
Paul Simmonds is one of the musicians associated with the Institut für bildnerisches Denken (Institut for Visual Thinking) in Grenzach-Wylen, Germany, a studio promoting interaction between the visual arts and installations and music. Since 2010 Paul Simmonds is President of the Swiss Clavichord Society.
“One mark of a good harpsichordist must be that he justifies his choice of instrument, that he does not waste its special qualities, nor make one long for the fuller presence of the piano. At his best Paul Simmonds achieved that at his recital on Sunday. His alacrity in rapid figures and ornaments would have flummoxed any piano, but found a perfect response in the sweet-toned harpsichord he was playing. He also had a clear style of contrapuntal exposition which benefited from the brighter nature of his instrument’s treble. The effect was often to give a separate life and intelligence to each hand, even when they were most closely linked together. ”