Stephen Coombs is recognised as one of the leading British pianists of his generation, active not only as a soloist in concertos and recitals but also collaboratively as a chamber musician, song accompanist and duo pianist. His repertoire encompasses works from the Baroque period to the present and he has achieved international acclaim not only for his many performances and broadcasts throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, but also for his extensive discography, mainly on the Hyperion label.
Stephen Coombs achieved early success, gaining second place at the National Piano Concerto Competition at the age of 13 and the award of a Gold Medal by the jury at the International Liszt Piano Competition held in Sopron, Hungary when he was 16. Initial studies were at the Royal Northern College of Music, Junior School, after which he studied at the Royal Academy of Music with the distinguished teacher Gordon Green.
From the outset, Coombs has enjoyed a multifaceted career as soloist, duo pianist, song accompanist and chamber musician, broadcasting extensively for the BBC and appearing as recitalist and soloist with major orchestras and at international festivals. His first recording for Hyperion Records in 1989, a disc of Debussy works for two pianos with Christopher Scott, received a 10 de Répertoireaward. Further duo and chamber recordings for Hyperion include the Arensky Suites for Two Pianos with Ian Munro, Piano Duo works by Milhaud with Artur Pizarro, and Piano Trios, Quartets and Quintets by Hahn, Vierne and Catoire with the Chilingirian Quartet and Room-Music Ensemble.
Coombs solo recordings for Hyperion include the complete solo piano music of Glazunov in four CDs as well as other discs of Russian solo piano repertoire by Scriabin, Arensky, Liadov, and Bortkiewicz (2 CDs). His contributions to Hyperion’s award winning Romantic Piano Concerto series, include concertos and other works for piano and orchestra by Arensky, Bortkiewicz, Mendelssohn, Glazunov, Goedicke, Gabriel Pierné, Massenet and Hahn.
To herald the new millennium, Coombs created, as Festival and Artistic Director, Pianoworks – the International Piano Festival, bringing together many close friends and colleagues – including pianists, Stephen Hough, Artur Pizarro, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Marc-AndréHamelin, Piers Lane, Kathryn Stott, Frederic Chiu and Leslie Howard. More than 40 concerts and events – recitals, concerto evenings, chamber concerts, cocktail piano, cabaret and jazz events, contemporary music, and exhibitions – were presented in London over two festival weekends. The festival was widely broadcast by BBC Radio 3, winning a Sony Radio Academy Award in 2000.
Stephen Coombs has appeared extensively on the BBC, performing as soloist and collaboratively in over 100 broadcasts. He has performed in many prestigious international music festivals including: the BBC Proms, Bath, Cheltenham, Spoleto, Sintra, Three Choirs, Snape Maltings, Lichfield, Salisbury, and Newbury. Coombs has consistently committed himself to promoting the works of contemporary composers and has given many significant premieres of works by British composers, including the world premiere of Paul Barker’s Musical Moments for clown and pianist at the Tête a Tête Festival in 2013, and works for solo piano, piano duo and chamber ensemble by Michael Finnissy, Judith Bingham, David Matthews, Kenneth Leighton, Malcolm Lipkin, David Osbon, and Francis Pott. He is also a founder member of Room-Music, a flexible chamber group which has recorded programmes of French and Russian music for Hyperion and has appeared as ensemble-in-residence at St. John’s, Smith Square, London.
Coombs has a lifelong commitment to music education. He has taught at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He has been an External Assessor at the Royal College of Music, 2004-2012, and is presently an External Assessor for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since 2018, he has taught at the Purcell School and is currently a Lecturer in Piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.