The son of working-class parents, he was educated at Trent College after winning a scholarship. After leaving school, he joined the army to undertake his National Service, playing the clarinet and viola in an army band. He subsequently entered the Royal College of Music on another scholarship. He began teaching at the college in 1966, eventually becoming a professor of piano.
In 1995, he was convicted of sexually abusing children and in the same year his teaching career at the Royal College of Music came to an end. Despite this, his career as a concert performer and recording artist continued. Since then several former pupils, both male and female, have come forward and described abuse they suffered from him.