James Johnstone studied in London and The Hague with Jill Severs and Ton Koopman respectively. He has forged a career as a recitalist, continuo player and teacher.
As a recitalist he has performed throughout Europe as well as Israel, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States.
As a principal keyboard player for the Gabrieli Consort and Players for 17 years, he took part in some 22 landmark recordings for Deutsche Grammophon. As a member of the chamber ensemble Florilegium for 10 years he performed throughout Europe and North and South America (and was the first European to record on an 18th century organ built by the indigenous Indians in Santa Ana, Bolivia). He recorded eight solo discs of works by Blow, Gibbons, E Pasquini, Cornet, Elizabethan Virginalists and a Bach recital (on the Waalse Kerk organ, Amsterdam). He is currently principal keyboardist with Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir.
In 2016 he undertook a series of critically acclaimed Bach recordings for Metronome Recordings: Clavierübung Part III, Fantasias and Fugues, the 18 Chorales and Canonic Variations. The complete organ works of François Couperin and d’Anglebert was released in 2020. Current new releases include Bach’s Art of Fugue on harpsichord, the six violin and obbligato harpsichord sonatas with Rodolfo Richter and Volume 4 of the Bach series (Bader organ, Zutphen).
James also teaches early keyboards at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Royal Academy of Music London.