Educated at Blundell's School, he later studied both music and law at Jesus College, Cambridge, graduating with dual degrees, subsequently obtaining a reputation for both musical scholarship and organ playing. Hurford subsequently studied in Paris under the blind French organist André Marchal, exploring music of the Baroque period.
He is best known for his interpretations of Bach, having recorded the complete Bach organ works for Decca and BBC Radio 3. His expertise also encompasses recordings of the Romantic literature for organ, performances notable for attention to stylistic detail. His playing style is noted for clean articulation, beauty of expression, and a sense of proper tempi.
Hurford was appointed organist of Holy Trinity Church, Leamington Spa from 1956 to 1957 and then organist and choirmaster of St Albans Cathedral Choir in 1958, serving with great distinction in this capacity for exactly twenty years. He conceived the idea of an organ competition in 1963, partly to celebrate the new Harrison & Harrison organ designed by Ralph Downes and himself. This venture was successful mainly because of the young Hurford's rapidly growing stature in Britain and overseas as a result of his refreshing notions of authentic performing style. This has grown into the St Albans International Organ Festival, a world-renowned festival of organ music with competitions whose past winners include many of the great names in modern organ music including Dame Gillian Weir, David Sanger, Thomas Trotter and Kevin Bowyer.
He is the holder of a number of Honorary Doctorates, was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College in 2006, received the Medal of the Royal College of Organists in 2013, and has been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire OBE. He has written a book: Making Music on the Organ (1998, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-816207-3) and published a deal of choral music for the Anglican liturgy, much of it issued by leading publishers such as Novello and Oxford University Press. His Litany to the Holy Spirit, to a famous text by Robert Herrick, is sung worldwide.
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- "Peter Hurford". Last FM. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
- "College awards Diplomas, Certificates and Medals". Royal College of Organists. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
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