Born in Lancashire in 1955, Stephen Johnson studied at the Northern School of Music, Manchester, and under Alexander Goehr at Leeds University.
After a brief period working for BBC Radio 3 – listening to LPs for clicks prior to transmission – he did a postgraduate course at Manchester University (subject: Shostakovich’s String Quartets). Then two friends – the composer Robert Simpson and the record producer Andrew Keener – suggested he try musical journalism. This soon grew into a full-time career.
Since then he has broadcast frequently for BBC Radio 3, 4 and World Service, major projects including 14 programmes about the music of Bruckner for the centenary of the composer’s death (1996), and has written regularly for The Independent,The Guardian, BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone.
Formed in 1988, the English Piano Trio has performed on many London and European concert platforms. The players are well known exponents of the classical repertoire, and have presented complete Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven programmes at London’s South Bank.
The Trio enjoys performing works from the 20th and 21st centuries, and has been involved with the commissioning and recording of this repertoire. Their CD (Naxos) of music by Sir Malcolm Arnold was part of a Gramophone Award winning series. For their 20th anniversary season they commissioned works by David Matthews, Cecilia McDowall and Joseph Phibbs. The Trio also researches music by lesser known composers, and their recording (Dutton Epoch), subsequent publishing and performance at the South Bank of music by the English composer Francis E Bache (1833–1858) gained them critical acclaim. To coincide with the publishing by Schott Music of a trio by the German composer Johanna Senfter (1879-1961), the English Piano Trio gave the Senfter premiere performance in Mainz, Germany. In 2014, at the invitation of the Gurney Trust, the Trio gave premiere performances of the two piano trios of Ivor Gurney at Bristol University.
The Trio is also well known for collaborating with other performers, both musicians and actors, bringing theatre and live music together. These music dramas have been performed in venues throughout Britain. For two music festivals in 2013 they presented ‘On the Danube’, a musical trip down the great river, with Timothy West, CBE narrator. Another recent words and music performance, at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, was a programme of the music of Shostakovich coupled with verse by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova.
For the last two seasons, the Trio has presented a series of recitals at The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol, in collaboration with visiting international orchestras.