Stephen Coombs is one of the leading English pianists of his generation, active not only as a soloist and recitalist but as a chamber player and duo pianist. While his repertory includes mainstream compositions by Mendelssohn, Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin, and others, he has become particularly well known for his interpretations of works by lesser-known late-Romantic composers, such as Arensky, Bortkiewicz, Glazunov, Reynaldo Hahn, and many others. Coombs has achieved acclaim for his recordings in the massive Hyperion series The Romantic Piano Concerto, wherein he has performed with distinction concertos by both familiar (Mendelssohn) and unfamiliar composers (Alexander Goedike, et al.).
Coombs was born in Birkenhead (near Liverpool), England, on July 11, 1960. He exhibited talent early on, capturing second prize at England's National Piano Competition when he was 13. His first serious studies were at the Royal Northern College of Music, Junior School, after which he studied at the Royal College of Music. His teachers included Joan Slade, Heather Slade-Lipkin, and Gordon Green.
Throughout the 1980s Coombs slowly built his career, both at home and abroad, appearing as a recitalist and soloist with major orchestras. But he developed his parallel career as a chamber music performer and duo pianist now, as well. In 1989 he recorded a disc of Debussy works for two pianos with Christopher Scott on the Hyperion label. Three years later he made the first of four recordings for the same label in its Romantic Piano Concerto series, with the F minor Piano Concerto by Arensky and the First Piano Concerto of Bortkiewicz.
Coombs followed with a string of assorted recordings for Hyperion, including a series, begun in 1994, devoted to the complete solo piano music of Glazunov. Further discs containing various rarities quickly followed, with the critical consensus consistently positive.
In 1998 and 1999, Coombs served both as festival director and artistic director of Pianoworks -- the International Piano Festival, held in London. In the early 2000s he joined the chamber group Room-Music, which made two recordings for Hyperion, the first containing chamber works by Hahn (2003) and the latter with music by Catoire (2004). Room-Music was chosen as ensemble in residence for the 2004-2005 season at St. John's, Smith Square, London. Among recent recordings by Coombs was the 2006 CD of solo piano works of Glazunov on Helios (Hyperion), the fourth and final volume in the series.