"He not only brings that dedicated scholarly view of playing characteristic of period instrument specialists, but he plays with such huge commitment. He is a great inspiration to me, especially in Mozart.”
Sir Charles Mackerras, BBC Music Magazine
David Watkin read Music at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge whilst studying the cello with William Pleeth and singing with Kenneth Bowen. He was a Shell/LSO Finalist, received the Bulgin Medal and was Principal cello in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
As a cellist he has made a wide range of acclaimed recordings including Sonatas by Vivaldi (Hyperion) Beethoven (Chandos) and Francis Pott (Guild), Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante with OAE (Virgin) and Schubert Quintet with the Tokyo Quartet (hmusa). He has been a soloist at Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York and performed the Schumann Concerto with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and ORR at Lincoln Center, New York. As a guest artist he has collaborated with, among others, Robert Levin, Nicola Benedetti and Fredericka von Stade.
Unaccompanied Bach has taken him all over Europe, from Bach’s birthplace in Eisenach to the Palace of Frederick the Great at Potsdam, the Prague Spring Festival and twice to Leipzig as a juror for the Bach Competition. His recording of the Cello Suites (Resonus) won both Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine Awards, and is one of three recordings of the Cello Suites included alongside Casals’ in Gramophone’s list of “The 50 Greatest Bach Recordings”. A performance featured in Sir John Eliot Gardiner's BBCTV programme “Bach: A Passionate Life”. He was the first cellist to be awarded the BBC Music Magazine's Instrumental Award.
As a member of the Eroica Quartet, formed as a response to recent research into nineteenth-century performance, he performed all over Europe and the USA. Their recordings of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Debussy and Ravel have astonished critics. Research begun whilst a student of Peter le Huray at Cambridge resulted in the now growing revival of improvised chordal accompaniment on the cello, with performances, recordings and publications in Early Music. He has written widely about performance in The Strad and in CUP’s volume Performing Beethoven. The Masterclass Media Foundation televised part of his weekend series of concerts and classes at the King’s Place Cello Unwrapped as “Unlocking the Bach Cello Suites”.
David Watkin brings to conducting decades of music making at the highest level. The breadth of his musical background – academic and practical, ‘early’ and modern, vocal and instrumental, symphonic and chamber – gives him a unique perspective in a wide range of repertoire. As Principal Cello in some of the world’s leading ensembles - English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra - he played a key role at the heart of some ground-breaking performances. As well as formal study of conducting he has worked under, and received guidance from some of the leading conductors of the age.
He has conducted groups including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Malta Philharmonic, the Swedish Baroque Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music, and the Manchester Consort, and worked with soloists including Nicola Benedetti, Alexander Janicek, and Roman Rabinovich. He was Assistant Conductor to Robin Ticciati at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and conducted Handel's Agrippina at RCS as well as scenes in concert from Fidelio and Pelleas. After conducting Mozart and Tchaikovsky with the EUYO Campus Orchestra at Grafenegg and was invited back to conduct Mahler’s epic First Symphony with the European Union Youth Orchestra in their 40th Anniversary Year in a concert at the European Forum, Alpbach in front of Jean-Claude Juncker. As Artistic Director of St Endellion Easter Festival he has conducted a wide range of repertoire from Bach's St John Passion, Handel's Messiah and Mozart Mass in C minor to works by Judith Wier and Sir James MacMillan. In his time conducting the Meadows Chamber Orchestra he completed a cycle of Brahms Symphonies. He has conducted ensembles at the Royal Academy of Music, The Guildhall School of Music, Xinghai Conservatory, Guangzhou, the Royal Welsh College, Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, Wells Cathedral School and at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where he is a Professor.
This year he conducted premiers of new works with RSNO recorded for the Parma label, and was immedeately invited back to work with the RSNO’s Composer Workshops. This December he makes his debut with Britten Sinfonia conducting Handel’s Messiah at London’s Barbican.