Peter Donohoe

In the years since his unprecedented success as Silver Medal winner of the 1982 7th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Peter Donohoe has built an extraordinary world-wide  career, encompassing a huge repertoire and over forty years’ experience as a pianist, as well as continually exploring many other avenues in music-making. He is acclaimed as one of the foremost pianists of our time, for his musicianship, stylistic versatility and commanding technique.

During recent seasons Peter Donohoe’s performances included appearances with the Dresden Staatskapelle with Myung-Whun Chung, Gothenburg Symphony with Gustavo Dudamel and Gurzenich Orchestra with Ludovic Morlot.  He also performed with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and played both Brahms Concertos with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Last season his engagements included appearances with the City of Birmingham Symphony and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestras and an extensive tour o South America.  He also took part in a major Messiaen Festival in the Spanish city of Cuenca, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Peter Donohoe played with the Berliner Philharmoniker in Sir Simon Rattle’s opening concerts as Music Director.  He has also recently performed with all the major London Orchestras, Royal Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich Philharmonic, Swedish Radio, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Vienna Symphony and Czech Philharmonic Orchestras. He was an annual visitor to the BBC Proms for seventeen years and has appeared at many other festivals including six consecutive visits as resident artist to the Edinburgh Festival, eleven highly acclaimed appearances at the Bath International Festival, La Roque d’Anthéron in France, and at the Ruhr and Schleswig Holstein Festivals in Germany. In the United States, his appearances have included the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. Since 1984 he has visited all the major Australian Orchestras many times, and since 1989 he has made several major tours of New Zealand with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He has recently returned from a highly acclaimed tour of Argentina with the National Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.

He has worked with many of the worlds’ greatest conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, Neeme Jarvi, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Andrew Davis and Yevgeny Svetlanov. More recently he has appeared as soloist with the next generation of excellent conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Robin Ticciati and Daniel Harding.

He is a keen chamber musician and performs frequently with the pianist Martin Roscoe.  They have given performances in London and at the Edinburgh Festival and have recorded discs of Gershwin and Rachmaninov.  Other musical partners have included the Maggini Quartet, with whom he has made recordings of several great British chamber works.

In 2001 Naxos released a disc of music by Gerald Finzi, with Peter Donohoe as soloist, the first of a major series of recordings which aims to raise the public’s awareness of British piano concerto repertoire through concert performance and recordings. Discs of music by Alan Rawsthorne, Sir Arthur Bliss, Christian Darnton, Alec Rowley, Howard Ferguson, Roberta Gerhard, Kenneth Alwyn, Thomas Pitfield, John Gardner and Hamilton Harty have since been released to great critical acclaim.

Peter Donohoe has made many fine recordings on EMI Records, which have won awards including the Grand Prix International du Disque Liszt for his recording of the Liszt Sonata in B minor and the Gramophone Concerto award for the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no. 2.  His recordings of Messiaen with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble for Chandos Records and Litolff for Hyperion have also received widespread acclaim. His recording of Brahms’ 1st Concerto with Svetlanov and the Philharmonia Orchestra was voted best available recording by the US magazine Stereo Review.

He studied at Chetham’s School of Music for seven years, graduated in music at Leeds University, where he studied composition with Alexander Goehr, and the Royal Northern College of Music, studying piano with Derek Wyndham. He then went on to study in Paris with Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod. His prize-winning performances at the British Liszt Competition in London in 1976, the Bartok-Liszt Piano Competition in Budapest in the same year, and the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1981 helped build a major career in the UK and Europe. Then his activity in the competitive world culminated in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1982, which shot his name into world-wide prominence. In June 2011 he returned to Moscow as a jury member for the 14th International Tchaikovsky Competition.

He is vice-president of the Birmingham Conservatoire and has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Music from the Universities of Birmingham, Central England, Warwick, East Anglia, Leicester and The Open University.

Peter Donohoe was awarded a C.B.E. for services to music in the 2010 New Year’s Honours List.

  • One of the pinnacles of nineteenth-century pianism, Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition broke new frontiers in its writing for the piano through its use of ringing bell-like sonorities, dramatic juxtaposition of registers and dynamics, its approach to resonance, percussive octaves and rapid hand-alternations, and sheer grandeur of sound. Introducing new ideas about virtuosity that owe much to orchestral thinking in the ways the full range of the piano’s tone-colours are explored, this work requires immense stamina through combining great finger dexterity with unbridled power. Mussorgsky’s masterpiece is coupled here with works by Ravel and Messiaen – composers who were indebted to the innovations of their Russian predecessor. Miroirs comprises a set of five pieces evoking contrasting moods and pianistic characters. Far from being Impressionist – a movement with which Ravel had little real affiliation –the ‘Mirrors’ of the title suggests more Symbolist associations in that the individual pieces explore ambiguities between supposed reality and ‘reflected’ simulation. Ravel was particularly fascinated by a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: ‘the eye sees not itself, but by reflection, by some other things.’ An unusually non-descriptive work for Messiaen, without religious references or bird- song, Cantéyodjayâ is about musical process and is constructed as a mosaic-like collage in which a jaunty rhythmic refrain is contrasted with a multiplicity of contrasting ideas, many of which are re-workings from his gargantuan Turangalîla-Symphonie.
  • Celebrated international pianist Peter Donohoe begins a new series of Shostakovich releases on Signum Classics with a new recording of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87. All 24 of the preludes and fugues were composed within several months, after Shostakovich was inspired by the performance of Tatiana Nicolayeva, whom he heard as a jurist for the Leipzig Bach Competition in 1951. Although doubtlessly inspired by J.S. Bach’s own 48 Preludes and Fugues in his use of form and counterpoint, Shostakovich’s compositions are all deeply original and rooted in his own enigmatic and ambiguous style, moving from charming simplicity to dazzling virtuosity. ★★★★ Donohoe treats these piano miniatures with the utmost sincerity...there is immense dignity and power in Donohoe's directness - The Guardian This is top class, this is a global level, this is not to be missed!Stretto Magazine
  • Celebrated international pianist Peter Donohoe continues his series of Shostakovich releases on Signum Classics, following his recent release of the 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87 (SIGCD396). For this new recording he is accompanied for the concertos by the Orchestra of the Swan under their artistic director David Curtis. ★★★★★ Donohoe’s needle-sharp articulation and firmness of tone set the nerves appropriately on edge, carving out the music’s contours with glacial insistenceThe Scotsman ★★★★ Donohoe delivers a highly-charged and compelling accountBBC Music Magazine ★★★★ There is much to admire all told, and the sound-quality is consistently excellentClassical Source Peter Donohoe turns in a stunning performance, relishing the required assaults on the lower reaches of the keyboard… a deeply satisfying discMusic Web International  
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