James was born in England but has lived around the world in New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Starting piano lessons at the age of seven, he performed on New Zealand television and won his first awards in Auckland in 1979. His family moved to Melbourne the following year where his musical studies blossomed through the 1980s with Margaret Schofield (a pupil of Solomon), Ronald Farren-Price (a pupil of Arrau) and Rita Reichman (a pupil of Serkin and Horszowski). He also won major prizes at eisteddfods and scholarships, including the Hephzibah Menuhin Award presented by Yehudi Menuhin. While still at school, James performed concerti by Mozart, Beethoven, Saint-Saens and Rachmaninov. He also reached the concerto final of the ABC Young Performers Awards in 1987, leading to concerts with the Adelaide and Melbourne Symphony orchestras.
He gaining a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, London, at the age of 17 in 1988. There he studied with Frank Wibaut and Christopher Elton, completing both undergraduate and postgraduate study and winning many recital awards including the Beethoven, Romantic and 20th century prizes. He also performed in master classes with great pianists such as András Schiff, Tamás Vásáry, Stephen Kovacevich, Fou Ts’ong and Menahem Pressler. James studied chamber music with members of the Amadeus and Chilingirian Quartets and attended the Britten-Pears and Lake District summer schools. At the age of 19, he won the keyboard final of the Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition, performing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
Recitals as soloist and in chamber music partnerships followed at music societies and festivals around the UK, including performances at the Purcell Room, St. Martin-in-the-Fields and St. James’s Piccadilly. At this point, James furthered his studies with the Armenian pianist, Nelly Akopian-Tamarina, and the Slovenian pianist, Marina Horak.
His London performances to date include, amongst others, the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, St James’s Piccadilly, St.Martin-in-the-Fields, the Foundling Museum, Blackheath Halls, Regent Hall and The Forge. Overseas recitals include the Berlioz Auditorium, Paris, Roussel Hall, New Orleans, music societies in Brunei and Hong Kong and in Ragusa-Ibla, Sicily. Other important British venues include Cheltenham Town Hall, Chichester, Bristol and Birmingham Cathedrals and James performs regularly for the Helensburgh Music Society. He has also given recitals for the Schubert Society of Britain and the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe. Radio broadcasts include ABC Classic FM and 3MBS radio in Australia, RTHK Radio 4, Hong Kong and his Beethoven recordings are being played on NPR stations across the USA.
Returning to the UK in 2010 to further his career, James is now based in the beautiful English Cotswolds. Forging links with the acclaimed producer Jeremy Hayes at Potton Hall, Suffolk, he began the process of performing and recording the complete Beethoven piano sonatas in April 2012. As a result, the first four volumes of ‘A Beethoven Odyssey’ have since been released to exceptional reviews. The first volume of the James Brawn ‘In Recital’ series has also been greeted to similar acclaim.