Stephen Kovacevich was born in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, to a Croatian father and an American mother. When his mother remarried, his name was changed to Stephen Bishop, the name under which he performed in his early career. He later discovered that he was often being confused with the singer and guitarist Stephen Bishop. To avoid the confusion, he began performing as Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich and later simply as Stephen Kovacevich.
He made his concert debut as a pianist at the age of 11; then, at the age of 18 he moved to London to study under Dame Myra Hess on a scholarship and has been a London resident ever since, currently living in Hampstead. In 1961 he made a sensational European debut at the Wigmore Hall, playing the Sonata by Alban Berg, three Bach Preludes and Fugues and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. He also toured Britain with Jacqueline du Pré.
From 1961 to 1967 he was married to novelist and psychotherapist Bernardine Bishop née Wall, who died in 2013. They had two sons, Matt Bishop (a director of the McLaren Formula 1 team) and Foff Bishop (a West Sussex fireman).
In 1967, he made his New York debut and since then he has toured Europe, the United States, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and South America.
He has directed the London Mozart Players, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in this way. His chamber music partners have included Jacqueline du Pré, Martha Argerich, Steven Isserlis, Nigel Kennedy, Lynn Harrell, Sarah Chang, Gautier Capuçon, Renaud Capuçon and Emmanuel Pahud.
He has given master classes and recitals at Dartington International Summer School for many years.
- Adrian Room Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins 2010, p. 62
- Hampstead and Highgate Express (June 12, 2009). "Brahms brings balm". Retrieved March 11, 2013.
- Elizabeth Wilson Jacqueline Du Pre: Her Life, Her Music, Her Legend 1999, p. 136
- Guardian obituary http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jul/05/bernardine-bishop
- Gramophone Magazine (November 2008). "Martha Argerich speaks to Stephen Kovacevich with Jeremy Nicholas". Retrieved June 4, 2014.
- on YouTube, WNCN-FM, May 6, 1983