Peter Donohoe (pianist)

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Peter Donohoe CBE (born 18 June 1953) is an internationally renowned virtuoso classical pianist, promoter, artistic director and educator.


Early life[edit]

Peter Donohoe spent his early years in the city of Manchester, England, and was educated firstly at Chorlton Park Junior School, and then Chetham's School of Music (formerly Chetham's Hospital School). His mother was an amateur pianist and his father had aspirations for his son. His mother's musical talent led to Peter taking to the piano at an early age, and his father encouraged this interest into a life-time ambition to become a professional musician.

Donohoe was taught firstly by his mother, then by local piano teacher Alfred Williams, followed by the man who eventually became Director of Studies at Chetham's School of Music, Donald Clarke.

Whilst at Chetham's he also studied violin, viola, clarinet and tuba, before finally turning to timpani and percussion as a second instrument, studying with Harry Massey - then timpanist with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (later the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra) - to which he was as committed as he was to the piano for at least ten years.[1]


Donald Clarke recommended that Donohoe do an audition at the age of 14 at the Royal Manchester College of Music, as a result of which professor Derek Wyndham insisted on taking him as his youngest student. Donohoe continued to work with Wyndham throughout the rest of his schooldays, and then went on to study music with Alexander Goehr at Leeds University. Later he returned to Manchester to continue working at the Royal Northern College of Music with Professor Wyndham, graduating in 1976 as BMus with first class honours in both piano and percussion as both teacher and performer.[2]

In 1975 he had been engaged for a trial as timpanist with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which was the high point in a career in percussion playing that included the formation of a rock group, a percussion ensemble and involvement in many opera and symphonic performances across the UK as both first-call free-lance percussionist and regular extra with many major British symphony orchestras. Later this led to becoming first call extra keyboard player with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Hallé. During his student years he also studied percussion playing with Jack Gledhill - then timpanist with the Hallé Orchestra - and Gilbert Webster, who had been Principal Percussionist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who encouraged his exploration of other disciplines, including the cimbalom, jazz improvisation on the vibraphone, and rock drumming.

However, during his final year as an undergraduate he decided to put all his energies into the piano. After graduating, he spent one year studying with Yvonne Loriod and Olivier Messiaen in Paris. During his student years at the Royal Northern College of Music he had also studied with Vlado Perlemuter, Sir William Glock, Roger Woodward, Charles Rosen and Sequiera Costa. In 1974 and 1975 he attended the Bartók Seminar in Budapest, where he studied with Pál Kadosa and first met his long-term colleague, Zoltan Kocsis.[3]


In 1976 Donohoe entered his first two competitions. The first was the British Liszt Competition in Guildford, England, in which he took third prize. Secondly he entered the Bartók-Liszt Competition in Budapest, Hungary, winning the Special Prize for the performance Bartók.

It was in 1981 that he decided to try to extend his activities into foreign countries, and entered the Leeds International Piano Competition, in which he was placed sixth. One year later, in July 1982, he won the Joint Silver Medal at the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow – then in the Soviet Union. From his success with the Soviet public and musical colleagues he developed an relationship with Russia that has continued to the present day. It was from this experience that he began to develop a serious interest in political matters, particularly in relation to the Cold War and its effect on the world of music and the arts.[4]

Early career[edit]

In the early years of his solo piano career, Donohoe was in demand by many UK recital series and amateur orchestras. Youth orchestras also played a big part in his activities. In 1970 he had joined the Cheshire Youth Orchestra as a percussionist, eventually becoming its percussion tutor, and also housemaster for several courses. On the first course in 1970 he had also played Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto, as well as being the orchestra’s timpanist for the rest of the program.

His first significant break with professional orchestras was a result of his regular work as keyboard player with the Hallé Orchestra, including many performances of the piano part of Stravinsky’s Petrushka. The conductor James Loughran offered him an opportunity to give his first solo concerto performance with a professional orchestra in June 1976, the same month in which he graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music and two months before the British Lizst Competition and the Bartók-Liszt Competition. His performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini launched a long-standing relationship with the Hallé Orchestra, as well as leading to many invitations to perform as soloist with many other British Orchestras. He made his London debut at the Purcell Room in 1979, closely followed by his Last Night of the Proms debut in the same year.

In 1974 he met the conductor Simon Rattle – then 19 years old and having won the John Player International Conductors' Competition that same week. It was Rattle’s first ever performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring – a piece with which he is known to have a special affinity – and Peter Donohoe was the timpanist. This encounter was to develop across the next 25 years going on to include several foreign orchestral tours, over 50 concerto performances in cities all over the world and many CD piano concerto recordings.

The link with the CBSO and Rattle brought about his performance in 2002 at Simon Rattle's inaugural concert as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Rattle was the CBSO's conductor throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s).[5]

Positions and titles[edit]

Peter Donohoe holds honorary doctorates from the following British universities:

He was also made Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music in 1983.

He was appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Northern Chamber Orchestra in 1984, a post he relinquished in 1987.

He founded the Orchestra of the Mill in 1987 and directed it until 1993 when the orchestra ceased to exist owing to local council funding being withdrawn as a result of rate-capping.

In 2000 he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Bath Philharmonia.[6]

Donohoe was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.[7]

Recording career[edit]

Donohoe exclusively signed with EMI Records in 1988, beginning a relationship that lasted until 1993, producing a major collection of CDs. These recordings tend largely towards 20th century composers such as Messiaen, Bartók, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Berg, Gershwin, Britten and Rachmaninov. He preferred to wait until later in life before recording music by romantic and particularly classical composers, making exceptions, however, for music by Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven. His recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 won the Gramophone Magazine Concerto Recording of the year in 1988, and his recording of Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1993.

His relationship with EMI ended in 1993. Since then he has made many recordings on a freelance basis with Deutsche Gramophon, Hyperion, Chandos, BMG, Warner and Naxos. In the latter case, a series of recordings devoted to British works for piano and orchestra was inaugurated in 2001, growing to a catalogue of 14 different works. This looks set to continue indefinitely.[8]


  • EMI - Stravinsky: Petrushka Ballet - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle
  • EMI - Britten: A Young Apollo - Scottish Ballade for two pianos and orchestra (with Philip Fowke) - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle
  • EMI - Britten: Diversions for Piano (Left Hand) and Orchestra - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle
  • EMI - Dominic Muldowney: Piano Concerto - BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder
  • EMI - Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1 - Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Yevgeney Svetlanov
  • EMI - Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Original Paul Whiteman version) and Piano Concerto in F - London Sinfonietta conducted by Simon Rattle
  • EMI - Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle
  • EMI - Bartók: Piano Concertos 1, 2 and 3 - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle
  • EMI - Tchaikovsky: Piano Concertos 1, 2, 3 and Concert Fantasy - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rudolf Barshai
  • EMI - Busoni Piano Concerto Opus 39 - BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder
  • EMI - Prokofiev: Sonatas Nos 6, 7 and 8
  • EMI - Stravinsky Petrushka/ Prokofiev Sonata No. 6/ Rachmaninov Etude Tableau No.6
  • EMI - Rachmaninov Complete Preludes
  • EMI - Beethoven: Diabelli Variations and Sonata Opus 101
  • EMI - Chopin: Ballades Nos 1 and 4/ Scherzi Nos 3 and 4/ Berceuse/ Three Waltzes Opus 64/ Twelve Etudes Opus 10
  • EMI - Liszt: Sonata in B Minor/ Bagatelle without Tonality/ Berg: Sonata Opus 1/ Bartók: Sonata (1926)
  • EMI - Liszt Sonata in B minor
  • EMI - Chopin Sonata No.3 in B minor
  • EMI - Liszt: Six Paganini Etudes/ Mephisto Waltz No.1/ Remeniscences de Don Juan/ Consolation No. 3 in D flat/ Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
  • Chandos - Messiaen: Couleurs de la Cite Celeste/ Un Vitrail et des Oiseaux/ La Ville den Haut/ Oiseaux Exotiques/ Sept Haikai - Nederlands Blasers Ensemble conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw
  • Chandos - Beethoven Quintet for Piano and Wind Instruments - Nederlands Blasers Ensemble
  • Hyperion - Litolff Concerti Symphoniques Nos. 2 and 4 - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton
  • Hyperion - Litolff Concerti Symphoniques Nos. 3 and 5 - BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton
  • Deutsche Gramophon - Henze Undine Ballet - London Sinfonietta conducted by Oliver Knussen
  • Erato - Hugh Wood: Horn Trio - Lennox Berkeley Horn Trio
  • Erato - Britten Canticle ‘Still falls the rain’ - David Pyatt (horn) and Levon Chilingirian (violin)
  • BMG - James McMillan: The Berserking (Piano Concerto No.1) - Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Markus Stenz
  • Warner Classics - John Foulds: Dynamic Triptique - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo
  • Carlton/IMG - Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue/ Second Rhapsody/ Fantasy on Themes from Porgy and Bess (Grainger)/ An American in Paris - Martin Roscoe
  • Naxos - Rachmaninov: Suites Nos. 1 and 2 for Two Pianos / Symphonic Dances - Martin Roscoe
  • Naxos - Finzi: Eclogue/ Gran Fantasia and Toccata - Northern Sinfonia conducted by Howard Griffiths
  • Naxos - Rawsthorne: Piano Concertos 1 and 2 - Ulster Orchestra conducted by Takua Yuasa
  • Naxos - Alwyn: Piano Concertos 1 and 2 - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Judd
  • Naxos - John Gardner: Piano Concerto - Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd Jones
  • Naxos - Bliss: Piano Concerto - Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones
  • Naxos - Concerto for Two Pianos - Martin Roscoe - Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones
  • Naxos - Harty: Piano Concerto - Ulster Orchestra conducted by Takua Yuasa
  • Naxos - Rowle: Concerto for Piano and Strings/ Darnton: Concerto for Piano and Strings/ Ferguson: Concerto for Piano and Strings/ Gerhard: Concerto for Piano and Strings - Northern Sinfonia directed from the keyboard by Peter Donohoe
  • Naxos - Walton: Sinfonia Concertante - English Northern Philharmonia conducted by Paul Daniel
  • Naxos - Elgar: Piano Quintet - Maggini String Quartet - won the Diapason d’Or Award for Chamber Music (1997)
  • Naxos - Bliss: Piano Quartet - Maggini String Quartet
  • Naxos - Walton: Piano Quartet - Maggini String Quartet
  • Naxos - Tippett: Sonatas 1, 2 and 3
  • Melodiya - Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 3 - Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev
  • GMN - Debussy: Complete Preludes Book 1/ Debussy: Estampes/ Ravel: Miroirs
  • GMN - Brahms: Piano Concertos 1 and 2 - Hong Kong Philharmonic conducted by David Atherton
  • GMN - Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Wind/ Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra/ Movements for Piano and Orchestra - Hong Kong Philharmonic conducted by David Atherton
  • SOMM - Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas 1-5[9]

Orchestras and conductors[edit]

Since appearing on the professional stage, he has performed all over the world in solo recitals and chamber music, and in particular as solo artist with many of the world's leading symphony orchestras. These have included every professional symphony orchestra in the UK and Ireland, including annual performances at the Proms for seventeen years. Abroad he has played as soloist with the following major orchestras, amongst many others, sometimes many times across several years.[10]


  • Cape Town Symphony Orchestra
  • SABC Symphony Orchestra
  • Zimbabwe National Symphony Orchestra


  • Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Hong Kong Sinfonietta
  • NHK Symphony Orchestra
  • Tokyo Symphony Orchestra
  • Philippines National Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Korean National Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Bangkok Symphony Orchestra
  • Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

  • Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
  • Australian Chamber Orchestra
  • Hobart Symphony Orchestra
  • Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
  • Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Queensland Symphony Orchestra
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra
  • New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Austria and Germany[edit]

  • Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Berlin Philharmonic
  • Berlin Symphony Orchestra
  • Eisenach Symphony Orchestra
  • Gurzenich
  • Hamburg Staatsoper
  • Jena Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Komische Oper Symphony Orchestra
  • Leipzig Gewandhaus
  • National Orkest Mannheim
  • NDR Hamburg
  • Nurnberg Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Rhine Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Saarbrucken Rundfunk
  • Gurzenich Orkest
  • Scharonn Ensemble
  • Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Sudwestdeutsche Philharmonic Orchestra
  • WDR Symphony Orchestra
  • NDR Hamburg
  • Bamburg Symphony Orchestra
  • Osnabruck Symphony Orchestra
  • Dresden Staatskapelle

Eastern and Southern Europe[edit]

  • Athens State Orchestra
  • Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Orchestra of Hungarian Radio + TV
  • Maggio Musicale Florence
  • Warsaw Philharmonic
  • Polish Radio Orchestra
  • Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Czech National Symphony Orchestra
  • Georgian State Symphony Orchestra
  • Estonian Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
  • Orchestre Radio Svizzera


  • French National
  • Orchestre de Paris
  • Philharmonia de Lorraine
  • Orchestre Nationale de Radio France
  • Monte Carlo Symphony Orchestra

Netherlands and Belgium[edit]

  • Concertgebouw Orkest Amsterdam
  • Rotterdam Philharmonic
  • Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Netherlands Wind Ensemble
  • Amsterdam Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Brabants Orkest
  • Concertgebouw
  • Dutch NYO
  • Forum Filharmonic
  • Frysk Orkest
  • Nord Netherlands Orkest
  • Residentie Orkest
  • Limburg Symphony Orchestra
  • Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra


  • St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Moscow Radio Orchestra
  • Moscow Chamber Orchestra
  • Novosibersk Symphony Orchestra
  • Russian National Orchestra
  • Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra
  • St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Ural Philharmonic Orchestra
  • USSR State Symphony Orchestra


  • Aalborg Symphony Orchestra
  • Danish Radio Orchestra
  • Zealand Symphony Orchestra
  • Tivoli Orchestra
  • Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Kuopio Symphony Orchestra
  • Lahti City Orchestra
  • Iceland Symphony Orchestra
  • Trondheim Symphony Orchestra
  • Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Stavanger Symfoniorkester
  • Goteborg Symphony Orchestra
  • Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra
  • Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra
  • Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

South America[edit]

  • Orquesta Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo
  • Orquesta de Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires)
  • Orquesta Filarmonica Mendoza
  • Filarmonica Santiago
  • Colombia National Philharmonic Orchestra

Spain and Portugal[edit]

  • ORCAM Madrid
  • Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia (La Coruna)
  • Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Gulbenkian Orchestra

USA and Canada[edit]

  • Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
  • Cleveland Orchestra
  • Columbus Symphony Orchestra
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra
  • El Paso Symphony Orchestra
  • Florida Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra
  • Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble
  • Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
  • Minnesota Orchestra
  • Mostly Mozart Festival Chamber Orchestra (San Diego)
  • Pacific Symphony Orchestra
  • Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
  • Portland Symphony Orchestra
  • Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
  • Seattle Symphony Orchestra
  • Springfield Symphony Orchestra
  • Wichita Symphony Orchestra
  • San Diego Symphony Orchestra
  • Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
  • Halifax Symphony Orchestra
  • Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra
  • London Symphony Orchestra (Ontario)
  • Toronto Symphony Orchestra
  • Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
  • Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra


Amongst the hundreds of conductors Peter Donohoe has worked with have been:[11]


External links[edit]