Acclaimed for his inspirational performances and eloquent musicianship, Paul Watkins enjoys a distinguished career both as concerto soloist and chamber musician. 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, David Robertson, Sakari Oramo, Andrew Litton, Gianandrea Noseda, Sir Mark Elder, Vernon Handley, Richard Hickox, 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 six concerto appearances at the BBC Proms, most recently in a televised performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto at the First Night of the Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek and recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon.
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 Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, Queensland Orchestra, 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 the 2010/11 season included his debut at Carnegie Hall performing Brahms’ Double Concerto with Daniel Hope, as well as concerto appearances with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic and BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Future highlights include concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Hong Kong Philharmonic, and in 2012/13 he will premiere a new concerto written for him by Mark-Anthony Turnage with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Tampere Philharmonic, Royal Flemish Philharmonic and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.
A dedicated chamber musician, Watkins has been a member of the Nash Ensemble since 1997. He regularly performs with the world’s finest musicians, including Menahem Pressler, Jaime Laredo, Lars Vogt, Christian Tetzlaff and Vadim Repin. He has given recitals at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, De Doelen in Rotterdam, the Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and Queens Hall, Edinburgh. Future highlights include solo recitals at King’s Place, London, and the Wigmore Hall, and performances at the Lincoln Center, New York.
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 and Rosza cello concertos, and a disc of Martinu’s music for cello and piano. Future releases will include the Elgar and Lutoslawski concertos, and a disc of Mendelssohn’s cello sonatas. 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 took on the role of Principal Guest Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra. 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, Ulster 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.
Watkins plays on a cello made by Domenico Montagnana and Matteo Goffriller in Venice, c.1730.