British pianist Graham Johnson has established a reputation as a leading accompanist through his collaborations with the world's foremost vocal artists. Born in Rhodesia, Johnson attended the Royal Academy of Music in London. There he met accompanist Gerald Moore, whose influence was instrumental to Johnson's own career. After graduation Johnson pursued further studies with Geoffrey Parsons, another respected figure in the world of vocal accompaniment. Fresh out of school, Johnson received a high-profile career boost when tenor Peter Pears selected him as the official accompanist for his first master classes at Pears' and Benjamin Britten's annual Aldeburgh Festival. During periods when Britten -- Pears' longtime accompanist -- was ill, Pears frequently called upon Johnson as a replacement. In 1975 Walter Legge, the impresario and EMI records producer, selected Johnson to accompany his wife, soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. By this time it was clear that Johnson was on track to become one of the most prominent figures in his field.
In search of creative new ways to explore the art song repertory, Johnson founded The Songmakers' Almanac in 1976. With the approval and guidance of Gerald Moore, Johnson formed the Almanac to seek out neglected piano/vocal works and build recitals incorporating several singers. For over a quarter of a century Johnson planned and accompanied over 150 Almanac recitals. In addition, he regularly presented summer recital cycles for the London South Bank and Wigmore Hall series and was invited by Alte Oper of Frankfurt, Germany, to give a seven-part cycle of music on texts by Goethe.
One of his most frequent partners was his Royal Academy classmate Felicity Lott. He has also partnered with some of the most distinguished singers of the second half of the 20th century, including Victoria de los Angeles, Peter Schreier, Marjana Lipovsek, Felicity Palmer, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Elly Ameling, Tom Krause, Jessye Norman, Margaret Price, Arlene Auger, and Brigitte Fassbaender. He is best known internationally for his recordings of Schubert's complete lieder on Hyperion Records with such singers as Janet Baker, Philip Langridge, Stephen Varcoe, Thomas Hampson, Lucia Popp, Thomas Allen, Ian Bostridge, and a number of his regular collaborators. Johnson's other recordings include the songs of Hahn, Bizet, Britten (including his realizations of Purcell), Gounod, Ireland, and Mendelssohn. His numerous honors include multiple Gramophone Solo Vocal Awards. In 2002 he became a chevalier of France's Order of Arts and Letters, and in 2010 he was given an honorary membership in the Royal Philharmonic Society.
Johnson appears frequently on the BBC. In addition to performing a traditional accompanist's role, he has written and served as presenter in programs explaining the songs of Schubert, Poulenc, Liszt, and Shostakovich. He is professor of accompaniment at London's Guildhall School of Music and is a fellow of Guildhall and of the Royal Academy of Music. He has given master classes in Finland, New Zealand, and the United States.