Huw Watkins

  • Artist

Huw Watkins was born in Wales in 1976 and studied piano with Peter Lawson at Chetham’s School of Music and composition with Robin Holloway, Alexander Goehr and Julian Anderson at Cambridge and the Royal College of Music. He was awarded the RCM’s Constant and Kit Lambert Junior Fellowship in 2001 and now teaches composition there.


Watkins’s breakthrough came in 1999 when the Nash Ensemble premièred his Sonata for cello and eight instruments. In 2000 the BBC National Orchestra of Wales premièred Sinfonietta under Grant Llewellyn and subsequently commissioned his Piano Concerto which was premiered in 2002 with the composer at the piano.


This wider attention led to commissions from the London Symphony Orchestra, London Concerto, to mark their centenary in 2005 and a Double Concerto premièred by Philip Dukes (viola), Josephine Knight (cello) at the Proms with BBC NOW conducted by Jac van Steen. He also received his first US commission from the Cincinnatti Chamber Orchestra, which resulted in Nocturne for horn and chamber orchestra.


Alongside this growing body of orchestral music, is a wealth of chamber music which is central to Watkins’ output, complementing as it does his parallel career as a pianist. He has written two string quartets (for the Belcea and Petersen Quartets) as well as a number of works for artists with whom he has developed performing partnerships including his Cello Sonata for Paul Watkins (recorded on Nimbus), Partita for violinist Alina Ibragimova (for whom he is currently writing a concerto for the 2010 BBC Proms) and a viola Fantasy for Lawrence Power. The Nash Ensemble have long been supporters of his music: his latest work for them was a Horn Trio and the group is planning a CD of chamber music for NMC. His Piano Trio was commissioned by Vernon Ellis for The Florestan Trio, who have performed it widely.


Watkins is also building a body of vocal works, which includes In My Craft or Sullen Art (Goodison Quartet No. 4) for tenor and string quartet which Mark Padmore and the Petersen Quartet premièred at Wigmore Hall in 2006; Three Auden Songs, commissioned at Mark Padmore’s request by La Monnaie in 2009; and Five Larkin Songs, premièred by Carolyn Sampson and the composer at the 2010 Weekend of English Song. 2009 also saw the première of his first chamber opera, Crime Fiction, with a libretto by David Harsent for Music Theatre Wales, where he is Jerwood Associate Composer.


On the concert platform he has premièred works by Mark-Anthony Turnage, John Woolrich and Michael Zev Gordon and has performed concertos with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra of the Swan. He recently presented a programme of Hans Werner Henze’s piano works at the BBC’s Total Immersion day at the Barbican. He is the Britten Sinfonia’s resident pianist.  His recordings include a disc of contemporary British music for violin and piano for Usk and the piano cycle Symmetry Disorders Reach by Alexander Goehr for Wergo. He was also the Featured Composer at the 2009 Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts.