Huw Watkins

Huw Watkins

Last updated: 07 February 2011

Huw flies the flag for contemporary classical music, both as a composer and as a pianist.

His many compositions range in scale from the small forces of chamber music to full orchestral scores, and often he takes part in their performance - such as his Piano Concerto, commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in 2002 and which he has played with them.

Other large-scale commissions have come from the BBC Proms, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinatti Chamber Orchestra, as well as from smaller chamber groups such as the Nash Ensemble, Peterson Quartet and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. He is Associate Composer with Music Theatre Wales as part of its Jerwood-MTW New Opera Plan.

As a pianist, Huw specialises in contemporary work and has premiered pieces by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Peter Maxwell Davies and his former teacher, Alexander Goehr. Recordings include a CD of British sonatas for cello and piano, including his own and works by Britten, Goehr and Frank Bridge, with his brother, Paul Watkins. He has also performed work by fellow Welsh composer, Grace Williams.

He also plays regularly with the Britten Sinfonia and with artists including violinists Daniel Hope, Alina Ibragimova and Alexandra Wood, violist Lawrence Power and oboist/conductor Nicholas Daniel.

Huw was born in Pontypool into a musical family and followed his brother, cellist and conductor Paul Watkins, into the music profession. He studied at Chetham's School of Music, read music at Cambridge University, taught by distinguished composers Alexander Goehr and Robin Holloway, continuing his composition studies with Julian Anderson at the Royal College of Music. He is now professor of composition at the RCM.

His first important piece was the Sonata for solo cello and eight instruments, written when still a student at the RCM, and first performed in 1999 by Paul Watkins and the Nash Ensemble. Birmingham Contemporary Music Group then toured with it. The Times' review of the piece said that "at 22, Huw Watkins is already a composer to be reckoned with."

The following year saw another first: his Sinfonietta was given its premiere by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Grant Llewellyn.

Huw's style follows melodic, lyrical lines, freely rhythmic, within a tonal framework. The Independent on Sunday has described Huw as "a pianist of alert intelligence and a composer with something to say".

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