Peter Jacobs has etched out a career built largely on the performance of works by lesser-known and neglected English and French composers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In fact, some of the composers championed by the energetic and courageous Jacobs might better be described as little known or virtual unknowns to most listeners: Henry Balfour Gardiner, Alan Bush, John Foulds, Billy Mayerl, Benjamin Dale, Betty Roe, and Trevor Hold. He is also associated with music by familiar names -- Vaughan Williams and Frank Bridge, for instance. But this pair are hardly famous for their keyboard music, and thus, performance of their piano works even entails a measure of risk. Jacobs' recital programs have often included works by more mainstream composers, such as Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and Poulenc, but he has rarely recorded anything in the standard repertory, some Fauré works excepted. Jacobs has made numerous recordings for several labels, including Hyperion, Olympia, Continuum, Priory Records UK, and Altarus.
Peter Jacobs was born in London on August 17, 1945. He was educated at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied piano with Alexander Kelley and harmony with Eric Fenby. In 1973 Jacobs teamed up with pianist Elizabeth Lightoller to fashion a short-lived duo. Two years later he appeared at London's Wigmore Hall as a soloist for a recital of works by little-known twentieth century composers. Thereafter, he devoted himself to championing the cause of these supposedly lesser figures in keyboard literature. In the 1980s Jacobs concertized regularly throughout the U.K. and steadily developed a following among concertgoers and critics. Among his first recordings was the 1987 Trax Classique album The Lake in the Mountains, a disc of piano music by Vaughan Williams.
In June 1991 Jacobs, newly signed by the Hyperion label, recorded volume one of the complete solo piano music of Cecile Cheminade, launching a series that has drawn enthusiastic response from both critics and public alike. Throughout the 1990s he made many recordings, most devoted to less-traversed repertory. Among the more notable of these was the 1998 Olympia release of 24 Preludes and 3 Rhapsodies by Charles Villiers Stanford. In the new century Jacobs continued promoting the music of little-known composers in his recital programs. He also served on the faculty of Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, West London, as the head of keyboard studies.