Michael Kieran Harvey was born in Sydney in 1961. He says that as a child he had great difficulty in coming to terms with being a musician, as he played four different codes of football and was also involved in surf lifesaving. His sister is the pianist Bernadette Harvey-Balkus; his brother Dominic Harvey was head of brass at the Australian National University and is a noted conductor; and, another sister Rowan Harvey-Martin is a violinist and noted conductor. His mother Anne (a student of Alexander Sverjensky) had to abandon plans to become a concert pianist when her father died in her mid-teens; and his father Francis was a journalist and for a time a freelance cellist. He is married to pianist Dr Arabella Teniswood-Harvey.
Michael studied piano at the Canberra School of Music with Alan Jenkins, at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under Gordon Watson, and at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, under Sándor Falvai. He first came to international prominence by jointly winning with Edith Chen the 1993 International Solo Piano Competition founded by Ivo Pogorelić in Pasadena, California, in which he performed Carl Vine's Piano Sonata No. 1. At the time, this was the world's richest piano competition. He entered the competition not believing he could win, but as an excuse to go to Los Angeles to see Frank Zappa, who was very ill, and to seek permission to play his piano music in public. However, Zappa died on the day of the finals and Harvey did not meet him. His manager from Columbia Artists Management was Ronald Wilford, who was Glenn Gould’s manager, and at that stage Ivo Pogorelić's own manager.
He has premiered many new Australian concertos by composers such as Yitzhak Yedid, Carl Vine, Nigel Westlake, Paul Grabowsky, Larry Sitsky and Barry Conyngham. He has given Australian premieres of important international works by Louis Andriessen, Stefan Wolpe, Donald Martino, Frank Zappa, Jon Lord (of Deep Purple), Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer), and Milton Babbitt.
Michael Kieran Harvey has worked with conductors such as Edo de Waart, Reinbert de Leeuw, Diego Masson, Markus Stenz and Kristjan Järvi, and has collaborated with the Arditti Quartet, the Netherlands and Luxembourg Philharmonics, the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble, Jon Lord, Keith Emerson, Absolute Ensemble and Paul Grabowsky. He regularly appears as soloist with Australian symphony orchestras.
He has performed and recorded most of Olivier Messiaen's works involving piano to high critical acclaim. In 2005 he released a live 3-CD recording of the Australian premiere of the entire Catalogue d'oiseaux featuring Peter Cundall as narrator.
He has recorded Carl Vine's complete piano music (including the 12 Preludes of 2006), much of which was written for him. He commissioned Nigel Westlake’s Piano Sonatas I (1998) and II (2004) and Piano Concerto (2000) and gave the premiere performances.
Harvey has recorded much of his own music, including Kursk, Fear, Homage to Liszt, Etude for Trumpet, City of Snakes, Psychosonata, Makzurka (all on the CD "Psychosonata") and 48 Fugues for Frank.
In 2005 the Michael Kieran Harvey Scholarship was established and funded by Susan Mary Remington in honour of his contribution to Australian music, and to encourage future directions in keyboard art music.Joint Grand Prix in the 1993 International Solo Piano Competition (usually referred to as the Ivo Pogorelić Piano Competition, after its founder) in Pasadena, with Edith Chen
Debussy Medal (Paris 1985)
Finalist, Inaugural International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, Utrecht, Netherlands (1986)
Four consecutive Australian Mo Awards for best classical artist
Awarded the Australian Government's Centenary Medal for services to Australian music (2002)
Three times nominated for the Helpmann Award
His recordings are regularly nominated in the ARIAs and APRAs.
APRA Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music (2009)