Stephen Kovacevich is widely recognised as one of the most revered artists of his generation. With an international career spanning more than six decades, he has long been recognised as one of the most searching interpretors – “A musician completely absorbed in his craft, his interpretations are like no one else’s and always eminate directly from the heart: musical messages of wisdom, peace, resignation, and hope” (The Washington Post).
Kovacevich is known for never being afraid to take both technical and musical risks in order to achieve maximum expressive impact. Through this, he has won unsurpassed admiration for his piano-playing, none more than from Leopold Stokowski, who famously wrote: “You do with your feet what I try to do with my Philadelphia Orchestra”.
Born in Los Angeles, Kovacevich laid the foundation for his career as concert pianist at the age of eleven. After moving to England to study with Dame Myra Hess, he made his European debut at Wigmore Hall in 1961. Since then, he has appeared with many of the world’s finest orchestras and conductors, including Hans Graf, Bernard Haitink, Kurt Masur, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Sir Simon Rattle, and the late Sir Georg Solti.
As concerto soloist, recent and forthcoming highlights include Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon, Los Angeles Philharmonic/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal/David Zinman, Sydney Symphony/Vladimir Ashkenazy, and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony/Sylvain Cambreling.
In recital, recent and forthcoming highlights include performances in Europe, Asia, and the United States – including the NCPA (Bejing), the Phillips Collection (Washington), the Bridgewater Hall (Manchester), and the Wigmore Hall (London). Kovacevich also performs regularly across the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand, and is a regular guest at prestigious festivals worldwide – including Lugano, Verbier, and the Mariinsky International Piano Festival (the latter by personal invitation of Valery Gergiev).
Over the course of his extensive career, Kovacevich has forged many long-standing artistic partnerships, such as that with the late Sir Colin Davis with whom he made numerous outstanding recordings, including the legendary Bartok Piano Concerto No.2 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Another such long-term affiliation is his professional partnership with Martha Argerich, with whom he regularly performs in duo on the world’s leading concert stages. Recent and forthcoming highlights for the Argerich-Kovacevich Duo include recitals at Het Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Philharmonie (Paris), Victoria Hall (Geneva), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), and the Wigmore Hall (London).
Kovacevich is a committed chamber musician, with collaborations over the course of his long career including with such luminaries as the late Lynn Harrell, Jacqueline du Pré, and Joseph Suk. Kovacevich now enjoys regular artistic collaborations with such violinists as Nicola Benedetti, Renaud Capuçon, and Alina Ibragimova; cellists Gautier Capuçon, Steven Isserlis, and Truls Mørk; flautist Emmanuel Pahud; and the Amadeus, Belcea, and Cleveland quartets.
Stephen Kovacevich has enjoyed an illustrious long-term relationship with recording companies Philips and EMI. To celebrate his 75th birthday, Decca released a Limited Edition 25-CD Box Set of his entire recorded legacy for Philips. In 2008, he rerecorded Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, exactly 40 years after his first recording of the work. This Onyx recording won him the Classic FM Gramophone Editor’s Choice Award (2009) and the Gramophone Magazine Top Choice Award (2015), to quote: “His seasoned yet fearless mastery reveals something new with each hearing…“.
Biography and photo courtesy of Knight Classical