Huw Watkins was born in Wales in 1976. He 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. In 2001, he was awarded the Constant and Kit Lambert Junior Fellowship at the Royal College of Music, where he later taught composition. He is currently Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.
Watkins’s growing body of orchestral works includes the widely acclaimed Violin Concerto (2010) for Alina Abragimova, premiered by BBC Symphony Orchestra with Edward Gardner, and two commissions from the London Symphony Orchestra: London Concerto (2005) and the Flute Concerto (2013) for Adam Walker, premiered under Daniel Harding in 2014. His longstanding relationship with BBC National Orchestra has resulted in a number of works, including a Piano Concerto (2001-5) premiered in 2002 with the composer at the piano, and a Double Concerto, premiered by Philip Dukes (viola) and Josephine Knight (cello). As Composer in Association (2015-2019), Watkins has written several orchestral works including the Cello Concerto for his brother, cellist Paul Watkins, premiered at the BBC Proms under Thomas Søndergård, and Spring (2017) for orchestra, commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and premiered by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in January 2018 with Ryan Wigglesworth. In 2017, the Hallé Orchestra commissioned Watkins’ Symphony, premiered under Music Director Sir Mark Elder.
A wealth of chamber music is central to Watkins’ output, complementing his parallel career as a pianist. His solo violin Partita (2006) was written for Alina Ibragimova and the viola Fantasy (2006) was written for Lawrence Power. Long-time supporters the Nash Ensemble commissioned a Horn Trio, and his String Quartet for the Carducci Quartet was a commission from the Manchester Chamber Concerts Society. Among works for his brother Paul Watkins is Blue Shadows Fall (2012-13), commissioned by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, who co-commissioned Watkins’ Piano Quintet with Wigmore Hall, premiered in April 2018. Upcoming works for Watkins’ include Four Fables (2018) for clarinet and piano trio which will premiere at Three Choirs Festival, and subsequently tour throughout the U.K.
Watkins’ vocal works include In my craft or sullen art (2007) for tenor and string quartet, premiered by Mark Padmore and the Petersen Quartet at Wigmore Hall in 2006, and Five Larkin Songs (2009-10) for soprano and piano, which won a British Composer Award. Further vocal works include Remember (2014) for soprano and string orchestra, written for Ruby Hughes, and Four Sonnets (2014) for tenor and piano, premiered at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 by Mark Padmore and the composer himself. In 2017, Watkins was commissioned by King’s College, Cambridge, to write a carol for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
Music Theatre Wales has commissioned two chamber operas, both with libretti by David Harsent: Crime Fiction (2008) followed by In the Locked Room (2011-12), a co-commission with Scottish Opera, which received a new production at Staatsoper Hamburg in 2015 and at the Royal College of Music in July 2018.
As one of the U.K.’s finest pianists, Watkins has premiered works by Oliver Knussen, Mark-Anthony Turnage, John Woolrich, and Michael Zev Gordon, and has performed concertos with numerous leading orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra and London Sinfonietta. His recordings include chamber-music discs on Chandos, Signum, and Nimbus; Alexander Goehr’s piano cycle Symmetry Disorders Reach on Wergo; and music by Knussen on NMC. His own disc of chamber music, In my craft or sullen art with NMC, has been warmly praised.