John Kersey is particularly known as a concert pianist for his pioneering work in researching and bringing unknown nineteenth-century music to a wider public. He is author of over 100 CDs consisting principally of première recordings of nineteenth-century piano music which are available via his record label, Romantic Discoveries Recordings. His playing has been described as “superb” (Newsletter of the Guild of Musicians and Singers) and “simply mellifluous” (Grantham Journal). Writing of his performance of the Alkan Symphonie in May 2015, Neil Lock at the Libertarian Alliance said, “The result was spectacular. John Kersey conveyed superbly to the audience the manic energy and sheer horror of the ride through hell on which Alkan takes us. I cannot praise John Kersey’s performance highly enough,” and added, “There were moments, in the last movement of [Beethoven’s] Sonata in E major [op. 109], when I felt briefly transported into another world. Few composers, and few performers, can do that to me.”
In 2006, John Kersey released the first recording of the original, unfinished version of Beethoven’s Sonata in D major, Biamonti 213, together with other Beethoven unfinished sonatas and sketches, in a CD described as a “treasure trove” by the website The Unheard Beethoven. He has also made the first recordings of music by Alkan, Mendelssohn, Reinecke, Eduard Franck, Röntgen, Bargiel and Viole among many others. In February 2005, he was ‘Editor’s Pick – Classical’ on CNET’s Download.com, and in September 2006 was their ‘Pick of the Day’, the Editor saying “This British pianist has devoted his career to unearthing great lost composers, and he plays them with genuine reverence”. His work has been featured on several American radio stations and on Dutch radio. He founded the online Henselt Library which makes scores of nineteenth-century piano music available to the public.
Making his professional début at London’s Purcell Room aged seventeen, he gave over 800 public performances in the ensuing seven years, appearing both as concerto and recital soloist and collaborative artist, and also as an organist and continuo harpsichordist. In the course of his performing career, he has been presented to HRH the Prince of Wales, performed before the President of Portugal and appeared at all of London’s major concert halls. With mezzo-soprano Sarah Tyler, he gave the public première of Jonathan Dove’s song-cycle All the Future Days to poems by Ursula Vaughan Williams in the presence of the composer and lyricist, and he has also given the British concert premières of works by Beethoven, Alkan and S.S. Wesley, among others. His compositions include two major song-cycles, Bathsheba and Inscape, and other vocal, instrumental and orchestral works. Several well-received London concerts have featured him performing his music with other artists. For twelve years he was active as a music critic, writing for International Piano on historical and modern piano recordings, Tempo, International Record Review and Hi-Fi News and Record Review. Since the late 1990s, his musical interests have been primarily concentrated in historical scholarship and recording projects, although in recent years he has returned to the concert platform with several solo recitals in London.
John Kersey graduated as the top pianist of his year from the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Professor Yu Chun-Yee (who described him as “immensely gifted”), and was later elected to a Junior Fellowship. He also studied privately with Paul Coker. He is a fourth generation pupil of Busoni, Ravel and Fauré, and a sixth generation pupil of Chopin and Liszt. During his time at the RCM, he was the winner of a dozen prizes and awards, including the Sir Arthur Bliss Trust Solo Piano Prize, the Sir Percy Buck Award, the Bernard Stevens Performance Prize, the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Prize for an outstanding Diploma Recital, the Ernst Pauer Prize, the Margot Hamilton Prize, the Teresa Carreño Memorial Piano Prize and the Constance Poupard Prize.
In recognition of his work for music, education and the performing arts, he has been awarded Fellowship honoris causa of the Australian Society of Musicology and Composition, the International Music Examinations Board (Australia) and the Victoria College of Music, and is also an Honorary Fellow of the National College of Music, the Academy of Saint Cecilia, ICMA, the Central Academy of Music and the North and Midlands School of Music. He is a fellow by examination of the Curwen College of Music. He formerly served on the Council of the Metropolitan College of Musicians as well as being an examiner for the Central Academy of Music and several national boards.