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Acclaimed for his inspirational performances and eloquent musicianship, Paul Watkins enjoys a distinguished career as concerto soloist, chamber musician and conductor. Born in 1970, he studied with William Pleeth, Melissa Phelps and Johannes Goritzki, and at the age of 20 was appointed Principal Cellist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. During his solo career he has collaborated with world renowned conductors including Paavo Berglund, Leonard Slatkin, Sakari Oramo, Gianandrea Noseda, Sir Mark Elder, Richard Hickox, Andris Nelsons, Sir Andrew Davis, and Sir Charles Mackerras. He performs regularly with all the major British orchestras including the London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia and City of Birmingham Symphony. He has made seven concerto appearances at the BBC Proms, most recently in a performance of the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Adès and recorded live by BBC Radio 3. He made his concerto debut at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of chief conductor Yakov Kreizberg, and has performed with the Norwegian Radio, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony and Queensland Orchestras, and with Konzerthausorchester Berlin and the RAI National Symphony Orchestra of Turin. He has toured to Italy and Prague with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra,

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Acclaimed for his inspirational performances and eloquent musicianship, Paul Watkins enjoys a distinguished career as concerto soloist, chamber musician and conductor. Born in 1970, he studied with William Pleeth, Melissa Phelps and Johannes Goritzki, and at the age of 20 was appointed Principal Cellist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. During his solo career he has collaborated with world renowned conductors including Paavo Berglund, Leonard Slatkin, Sakari Oramo, Gianandrea Noseda, Sir Mark Elder, Richard Hickox, Andris Nelsons, Sir Andrew Davis, and Sir Charles Mackerras. He performs regularly with all the major British orchestras including the London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia and City of Birmingham Symphony. He has made seven concerto appearances at the BBC Proms, most recently in a performance of the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Adès and recorded live by BBC Radio 3.

He made his concerto debut at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of chief conductor Yakov Kreizberg, and has performed with the Norwegian Radio, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony and Queensland Orchestras, and with Konzerthausorchester Berlin and the RAI National Symphony Orchestra of Turin. He has toured to Italy and Prague with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and to China and the Far East with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Highlights of recent seasons include concerto appearances with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Bournemouth Symphony, and concerts in the Netherlands, Belgium and Japan with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, and his US concerto debut with the Colorado Symphony. He also premiered (and was the dedicatee of) Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new concerto with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic and Edo de Waart, the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and Hannu Lintu, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko; and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Andris Nelsons.

A dedicated chamber musician, Watkins was a member of the Nash Ensemble from 1997 to 2013, and joined the Emerson String Quartet in May 2013. He is a regular participant at festivals and chamber music series, including at the Lincoln Center New York, Music@Menlo, the Roros Festival in Norway, and in 2014 was appointed Artistic Director of the Great Lakes Music Festival of Detroit. He regularly performs with the world’s finest musicians, including Menahem Pressler, Jaime Laredo, Lars Vogt, Christian Tetzlaff and Vadim Repin, and has given solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, De Doelen in Rotterdam, the South Bank Centre, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and Queens Hall, Edinburgh.

In 2009 Paul Watkins signed an exclusive contract with Chandos Records for a series of recital and concerto discs. Recent releases include Britten’s Cello Symphony, the Delius, Elgar and Lutoslawski cello concertos, and discs of Martinu’s and Mendelssohn’s music for cello and piano, and an ongoing series of Britsh sonatas with his brother Huw Watkins. His past recordings include the Britten solo cello suites and a recital programme of twentieth century British repertoire for Nimbus, Takemitsu’s Orion and Pleiades for BIS Records and the concertos of Richard Rodney Bennett, Tobias Picker and Cyril Scott for Chandos.
He also maintains a busy career as a conductor and in the 2009/10 season became the first ever Music Director of the English Chamber Orchestra, following two successful years as Associate Conductor. He also served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra from 2009 to 2012. Since winning the 2002 Leeds Conducting Competition he has conducted all the major British orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony and BBC Symphony Orchestras. Outside the UK he has conducted the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Prague Symphony, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Tampere Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic and the Melbourne Symphony, Queensland and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestras. In 2006 he made his opera debut conducting a critically praised new production of Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine for Opera North. Recent highlights include his debuts with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Royal Northern Sinfonia and a tour of Norway with the English Chamber Orchestra.

Watkins plays on a cello made by Domenico Montagnana and Matteo Goffriller in Venice, c.1730.

Season 2014/2015

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Reviews

"Paul Watkins has clearly become an integral member of the quartet, and his warm, burnished cello tone was a consistent pleasure."

Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"Watkins is fully up to all of the composer’s challenges […] this is surely the finest account of this work that has ever been recorded, manifestly superior in sensitivity and virtuosic élan from any other […] of the highest musical grasp and understanding."

Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review

"This is one of those rare discs that surprises as much as it delights. It has been a long time since I last listened to Brahms' cello sonatas so intently and with so much enjoyment. Paul Watkins and Ian Brown commanded my attention, not with declamatory statements but by making me complicit in an act of discovery. This is familiar music, yet suddenly new. They kept me on the edge of my seat and they kept me smiling. There are many great performances of these sonatas, but I cannot recall a set of such flexibility and nuance or of such generous interplay between equals. "

Tim Perry, MusicwebInternational

"The minute Mr. Watkins began to play I was absolutely stunned. […] Watkins gave this magnificent concerto a searing and introspective atmosphere which at once was passionate and searchingly intimate. His technique is absolutely ferocious, but he never loses sight of the intensity inherent in Elgar’s writing. […] The third movement is without a doubt one of the most passionate pieces of music that Elgar ever wrote, and Watkins was absolutely relentless in its exposure…."

Robin McNeil, OpusColorado.com

"Mr. Watkins’s charismatic, responsive, tonally resplendent playing was no surprise. He has brought new qualities to the Emerson String Quartet, which he joined last year. Here he was exceptionally fine, from the meaty downward line, amid trembling violas, in the Mendelssohn quintet’s third movement to the exuberant blossoming at the start of the Brahms."

Zachary Woolfe, New York Times

"Watkins is a great champion of British music and his playing throughout displays all the commitment and passion – together with a rock solid technique – that one could wish for. […] the ardent lyrical nature of the music really does suit Watkins' style perfectly. […] Great praise to the Watkins brothers for producing such a convincing and enjoyable recital."

Nick Barnard, Music Web International

"[…] unquestionably, in my opinion, one of today’s foremost cellists. This new album further bolsters his reputation with gorgeous tonal bloom, ample technique to surmount the thorniest technical passages, and perhaps most inspiring of all, performances that are musically sensitive and deeply committed emotionally to these works."

Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

"The new member, cellist Paul Watkins, fit into the quartet's repertoire and unified sound as if he'd been a member for years. […] with Watkins, the foursome has taken on a new edginess. It permeated throughout the Mendelssohn quartet, sparked not only by Watkins but by the spirited response from the other three. Even the sweet lyricism in the finale had a unique glimmer to it. […] If it has not already done so, the addition of Watkins could raise the bar for quartet playing"

Michael Huebner, Alabama Media Group

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Discography