After arriving in Britain from his native Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Graham Johnson studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music and subsequently with the late Geoffrey Parsons. In 1972 he was official accompanist at Peter Pears’s first masterclasses at The Maltings, Snape, and thereafter worked regularly with the great tenor. In 1975 he was invited by Walter Legge to accompany Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. In 1976 he formed The Songmakers’ Almanac to further the cause of neglected areas of piano-accompanied vocal music and to place the staple repertoire of song in new and challenging contexts. This endeavour was much supported by the late Gerald Moore, whose guiding influence in Johnson’s career was of crucial importance.
Apart from devising and accompanying over one hundred and fifty Songmakers’ recitals, Graham Johnson has presented a number of summer recital cycles for London’s South Bank and Wigmore Hall, as well as a seven-part cycle of Goethe settings for the Alte Oper, Frankfurt. He has written and presented programmes for both BBC Radio and Television on the songs of Schubert, Poulenc, Liszt and Shostakovich. He is Professor of Accompaniment at London’s Guildhall School of Music, and a Fellow of that School as well as of the Royal Academy of Music. He has given masterclasses as far afield as Finland, New Zealand, and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California.
Graham Johnson has accompanied such distinguished singers as Elly Ameling, Victoria de los Angeles, Arleen Auger, Brigitte Fassbaender, Lucia Popp, Tom Krause, Jessye Norman, Peter Schreier, Marjana Lipovsek, Felicity Palmer, Ann Murray, Christine Schäfer, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Matthias Goerne and Dame Margaret Price. He has accompanied Dame Felicity Lott since their student days at the Royal Academy of Music where they worked together with the late Flora Nielsen.
Graham’s project to record the entire Schubert Lieder for Hyperion continues to attract critical acclaim, including the ‘Gramophone’ Solo Vocal Award in both 1989 (for his disc with Dame Janet Baker) and 1996 (for Die schöne Müllerin with Ian Bostridge); his other collaborators in the series include Thomas Allen, Brigitte Fassbaender, Thomas Hampson, Christoph Prégardien, Dame Margaret Price, Dame Felicity Lott, Ann Murray, Edith Mathis, Philip Langridge, Arleen Auger, Lucia Popp, Marjana Lipovsek, Christine Schäfer, Matthias Goerne and Peter Schreier. He has now embarked on a new project for Hyperion, to record the entire Lieder of Schumann. The first disc in this series, with Christine Schäfer, won the 1997 ‘Gramophone’ Solo Vocal Award.