Stephen Preston

Biography

Stephen Preston’s flute playing began in his teens when he bought a fife at a jumble sale and taught himself to play it. He took up the flute to plug a gap in Haberdashers Askes’ school orchestra. On leaving school he won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music where he studied with Geoffrey Gilbert.

In the late sixties Stephen began exploring contemporary music with an ensemble dedicated to the performance of new works by young composers, sponsored by the Arts Council. And he took his first steps in historical performance when he became the flautist in the Galliard Harpsichord Trio, alongside harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock and cellist, Anthony Pleeth.

The professional success and musical vitality of the Trio helped lay the foundation of Stephen’s early career, which took a decisive turn after a chance encounter with an eighteenth century flute. This, and his proximity to the Carse Collection of Wind Instruments housed at the Horniman Museum in South London, led to Stephen teaching himself to play eighteenth and nineteenth century flutes using the method books together with a wide range other historical performance sources.

He was invited to become principal flute in all the leading period instrument ensembles and orchestras in the UK as they were founded, including The English Concert, The Academy of Ancient Music and London Baroque to name but a few, with whom he gave many concert tours and made many recordings.

For several years Stephen put his flute playing career on hold in order to pursue his interest in historical dance. He founded two dance companies, the first of which was devoted to 18th century dance, while the second reflected his deepening interest in the relationship between performance forms and the cultures from which they arise. When he returned to the baroque flute, it was in a more experimental and improvisational vein that reflected his experiences with dance and music.

In 2005 he gained a PhD for performance based research into birdsong as a heuristic model for new techniques and forms of improvisation with the Baroque flute.

In 2008 he was youngest player to be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Flute Association of America.