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SIMON PRESTON made his debut at the Royal Festival Hall in London in March 1962, performing the organ solos in Janác?ek's Glagolitic Mass. But before that, devotees of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast each Christmas Eve from King's College, Cambridge, had heard Simon Preston accompanying the Choir from the Chapel where he had been a chorister as a boy and where he returned later as Organ Scholar. Shortly after his London debut, Preston was appointed Sub-Organist of Westminster Abbey and later that same year appeared for the first time at the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. During that period he worked under many famous conductors, including Leopold Stokowski, Pierre Monteux, and later Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Britten. In 1965 he made his first tour to the United States and Canada, and by the time he left Westminster Abbey in 1967, Preston was already an internationally acclaimed artist.
In 1981 he was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey, where his work with the choir received great acclaim. He directed the music at the Royal Wedding of Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew in 1986 and was also responsible for writing much of Salieri's music in the movie Amadeus.
Since 1987, when he left Westminster Abbey, he has continued to pursue an active career as a highly sought-after concert organist. He recorded the Saint-Saëns "Organ" Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic under James Levine, the Poulenc Organ Concerto with the Boston Symphony and the Copland Symphony for Organ with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Since his first tour in 1965, Simon Preston has been a regular visitor to the United States, often appearing as a guest artist at conventions of the American Guild of Organists as well as on tours that have included most of the States in America. He was named International Performer of the Year (New York Chapter, AGO) for 1987.
The description in a Vienna newspaper recently of Simon Preston as "a living legend" serves as a reminder that his recording career began nearly 50 years ago with the performance of a Gibbons Fantasia on a King's College, Cambridge disc. There are currently nearly 50 CDs of his still available, including two versions of the Handel Organ Concertos - with both Yehudi Menuhin and Trevor Pinnock - as well as Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto as harpsichord soloist, and many recordings with the choirs of both Westminster Abbey and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1971 Preston was awarded an "Edison Classique" for his recordings of Messiaen's Les Corps Glorieux and Hindemith's Organ Sonatas. The recording of Handel's Coronation Anthems with the Westminster Abbey Choir conducted by Simon Preston was awarded a "Grand Prix du Disque in 1983. In October 2000 Deutsche Grammophon launched his complete recording of Bach's organ works. Classic CD recently named Simon Preston as one of "The Greatest Players of the Century" in a list that included the entire classical music world.