Born in Wales in 1976, Huw Watkins’s breakthrough came in 1999 when the Nash Ensemble premiered his Sonata for cello and eight instruments.
A year later the BBC National Orchestra of Wales premiered Sinfonietta under Grant Llewellyn, and later 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 premiered by Philip Dukes (viola) and 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. His widely acclaimed Violin Concerto was premiered by Alina Abragimova at the 2011 Proms.
Alongside this growing body of orchestral music is a wealth of chamber music, complementing his parallel career as a pianist. He has written two string 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 for Nimbus), Partita for Alina Ibragimova (recorded for NMC) and a viola Fantasy for Lawrence Power. The Nash Ensemble have long been supporters of his music and his recent Horn Trio was written for them. 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 that includes In my craft or sullen art for tenor and string quartet which Mark Padmore and the Petersen Quartet premiered at the Wigmore Hall in 2006. Three Auden Songs was commissioned at Mark Padmore’s request by La Monnaie in 2009 and Five Larkin Songs, premiered by Carolyn Sampson and the composer at the 2010 Weekend of English Song, went on to win the vocal category at the British Composer Awards. 2009 also saw the premiere of Crime Fiction, a 20 minute chamber opera with a libretto by David Harsent for Music Theatre Wales. MTW subsequently co-commissioned with Scottish Opera In the Locked Room, a 50 minute chamber opera again with a libretto by Harsent, which was premiered in August 2012 to much acclaim.
As an acclaimed pianist Watkins has premiered works by Oliver Knussen, Mark-Anthony Turnage, John Woolrich and Michael Zev Gordon and has performed concertos with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra of the Swan. His recordings include discs of contemporary British music for Nimbus and Usk, the piano cycle Symmetry Disorders Reach by Alexander Goehr for Wergo and music by Knussen for NMC. His own disc of chamber music, In my craft or sullen art with NMC, has been warmly praised.
Watkins was appointed Composer-in-Association with BBC National Orchestra of Wales for three years from Autumn 2015.