Welsh composer and pianist Huw Watkins read Music at King's College, Cambridge, where he studied composition with Robin Holloway and Alexander Goehr, and completed an MMus in composition at the Royal College of Music with Julian Anderson. He was awarded the Constant and Kit Lambert Junior Fellowship at the Royal College of Music, where he is now a Professor of Composition.
The centrepiece of this disc, commissioned by Sir Nicholas Goodison and premiered by Mark Padmore, sets Dylan Thomas's defiant In my craft or sullen art for tenor and string quartet. Alina Ibragimova excels in the virtuosic Partita for solo violin, which Watkins describes as a 'very fast, relentless gigue’. Huw's brother Paul is soloist in the lyrical Sonata for Cello and Eight Instruments; while there are echoes of Britten and Berkeley in the beautifully wrought Three Auden Songs, sung by tenor Mark Padmore, accompanied by Huw Watkins on piano.
The Elias String Quartet take their name from Mendelssohn's oratorio, Elijah - Elias in its German form - and have quickly established themselves as one of the most intense and vibrant quartets of their generation. They perform around the world, collaborating with many different artists. The Quartet was formed in 1998 at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where they worked closely with the late Dr. Christopher Rowland. They also spent a year studying at the Hochschule in Cologne with the Alban Berg quartet. Other mentors in the Quartet’s studies include Hugh Maguire, György Kurtág, Gábor Takács-Nagy, Henri Dutilleux and Rainer Schmidt.
The Nash Ensemble
'After 40 years and over 250 premières (140 commissions) the Nash Ensemble is still the best champion that any composer could hope to have. Its concerts are always meticulously polished, but what impressed about this heroically well-stuffed programme - two premières and four other chamber pieces, none more than four years old - was the illusion conjured by the players that they lived with this music for years, even if the ink was barely dry on the page. Perhaps it is precisely because the ensemble is not entirely dedicated to doing contemporary work, that it can radiate so persuasive a feeling of new pieces being assimilated into chamber-music heritage stretching back two centuries or more.' The Times
Mark Padmore has established a flourishing career in opera, concert and recital. His performances in Bach’s Passions have gained particular notice throughout the world. He was the Wigmore Hall Artist in Residence in the 2009/10 Season. As well as his regular collaborators Julius Drake, Roger Vignoles, Simon Lepper and Andrew West, he works with many internationally renowned chamber musicians including Paul Lewis, Imogen Cooper, Christian Zacharias and Till Fellner, with whom he recently performed the three Schubert Cycles at the Theatre an der Wien and Salle Gaveau, Paris.
Recent opera work includes the leading role in Harrison Birtwistle’s The Corridor at the Aldeburgh and Bregenz Festivals and future plans include Captain Vere in Britten’s Billy Budd for Glyndebourne Festival Opera. In concert he has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Berlin, Vienna and New York Philharmonics and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Harmonia Mundi releases have included a disc of Handel arias As Steals the Morn which won the BBC Music Magazine Vocal Award and Schubert's Schwanengesang, Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise with Paul Lewis for Harmonia Mundi. The latter won the Gramophone magazine Vocal Solo Award for 2010 . Mark is Artistic Director of the St. Endellion Summer Music Festival in Cornwall and Schumann Dichterliebe with Kristian Bezuidenhout which won the Vocal Solo category of the 2011 Edison Klassiek Award. Mark is Artistic Director of the St. Endellion Summer Festival in Cornwall.
Acclaimed for his inspirational performances and eloquent musicianship, Paul Watkins enjoys a distinguished career both as concerto soloist and chamber musician. Since winning the 2002 Leeds Conducting Competition he has also maintained a busy career as a conductor and in the 2009/10 season became the first ever Music Director of the English Chamber Orchestra, and also took on the role of Principal Guest Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra.
As a cellist, he has performed regularly with all the major British orchestras and made six concerto appearances at the BBC Proms, most recently in a televised performance of the Elgar Concerto. Outside the UK he has performed with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, and the RAI National Symphony Orchestra of Turin, and 2012/13 he will premiere a new concerto written for him by Mark-Anthony Turnage with orchestras including the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.
A dedicated chamber musician, Watkins has been a member of the Nash Ensemble since 1997, and he regularly performs with the world's finest musicians, including Menahem Pressler, Jaime Laredo, Lars Vogt, Christian Tetzlaff and Vadim Repin. He has given solo recitals at the Southbank Centre, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and Queens Hall, Edinburgh, as well as recitals in New York, Boston and throughout Europe. In 2009 he signed an exclusive contract with Chandos Records for a series of recital and concerto discs, with repertoire including Mendelssohn’s sonatas, Britten's Cello Symphony and concertos by Delius, Lutoslawski and Rosza.
The Times has written that Alina Ibragimova performs with "a mixture of total abandonment and total control that is in no way contradictory" and that she is "destined to be a force in the classical music firmament for decades to come". Performing music from baroque to new commissions on both modern and period instruments, Alina has appeared with orchestras including the London Symphony, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, BBC Symphony, Deutsches Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Stuttgart Radio Symphony and the Philharmonia, with conductors including Valery Gergiev, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Sir Mark Elder, Vladimir Jurowski, Richard Hickox, Paavo Järvi, Osmo Vänskä, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Edward Gardner and Gianandrea Noseda.
As soloist/director Alina has performed with the Kremerata Baltica in Paris, Salzburg and Verbier, and has toured with the Britten Sinfonia and Australian Chamber Orchestra.
In recital and chamber music Alina has appeared at venues including the Wigmore Hall (for whom she and her regular recital partner Cédric Tiberghien performed & recorded the complete Beethoven violin sonatas), Concertgebouw, Mozarteum, Musikverein, Carnegie Hall, Palais des Beaux Arts, and at festivals including Salzburg, Verbier, MDR Musiksommer, City of London, Lockenhaus, Manchester, Edinburgh and Aldeburgh.
Born in Russia in 1985 Alina is a former pupil of the Moscow Gnesin and Yehudi Menuhin schools and the Royal College of Music London, where her teachers have included Natasha Boyarsky, Gordan Nikolitch and Christian Tetzlaff.
Alina records for Hyperion Records, by whose kind permission she appears on NMC: albums include the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, concertos by Hartmann and Roslavets, and Szymanowski and Ravel with Cédric Tiberghien. Alina has been the recipient of the 2010 Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award, a Borletti-Buitoni Trust award, winner of a Classical BRIT, and a member of the BBC New Generation Artists Scheme. She performs on a 1738 Pietro Guarneri of Venice violin kindly provided by Georg von Opel.
Huw Watkins by Hanya Chlala/ ArenaPAL
Elias Quartet by Benjamin Ealovega
Nash Ensemble by Hanya Chlala/ArenaPAL
Alina Ibragimova by Sussie Ahlburg