Born in England, Martin Hughes gained his early musical experience as a chorister in Salisbury Cathedral. He made his first appearance at London’s Wigmore Hall at the age of twelve as prizewinner of a national piano competition, and at sixteen entered the Paris Conservatoire in the class of Yvonne Lefébure. One year later he had graduated, and at eighteen made his first appearance at the Salle Gaveau, Paris, performed a Mozart concerto on BBC Radio and won second prize at the Maria Canals International Competition in Barcelona. Further study followed with Benjamin Britten, at the Moscow Conservatory with Lev Oborin, and in Positano with Wilhelm Kempff. At twenty-two he made his debut at the BBC Proms. There followed tours to the USA, the USSR, Europe and Israel, together with invitations to many of Europe’s broadcasting networks, and appearances with the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and other major orchestras. A series of seven recitals on London’s South Bank sponsored by the Kirckman Society established his critical reputation.
As soloist and chamber musician Martin Hughes has performed with Simon Rattle, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gyorgy Pauk, Gérard Caussé, Thomas Brandis, Wolfgang Boettcher, Michael Sanderling, the Kandinsky Trio, the Bartok Quartet and many other distinguished musicians. He was a founder member of the Kreutzer Piano Trio which commissioned and performed a number of new British works. He founded the Fengate Music Trust in 1985 and was for many years artistic director of the Festival de la Vallée au Loups in Normandie, France.
Formerly professor and director of the Piano Department at the Universität der Künste Berlin, Martin Hughes has given masterclasses for the University of Cambridge, the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique Paris, the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, the Norwegian Musikhochschule Oslo, Seoul National University,as well as in Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Roumania, France, Switzerland, Poland, Germany and Austria. In October 2002 he was appointed Ordinarius at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien.
His intellectual approach owes much to the influence of a former colleague, Dr Hans Heimler, who in his Viennese years studied with Berg, Schenker and Weingartner, and indeed Martin Hughes's performances of Beethoven and Schubert have won him critical praise in many countries. He has performed all the piano sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert in separate cycles. Of his article on the interpretation of Beethoven’s piano music („Interpreting Beethoven“ ed. Stowell, Cambridge University Press 1994) Paul Badura-Skoda wrote „Every pianist who is seriously interested in rendering the spirit of a Beethoven piano work ought to read it“.
„Meausured, lucid, serene, and above all, superlatively intelligent, Martin Hughes’s piano recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall yesterday was an artistic triumph, something for his audience to reeasure in their hearts and minds...few pianists show such an unerring sense of musical proportion or poetic refinement“ The Daily Telegraph