Huw Watkins

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Huw Watkins
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: Huw Watkins
WORKS: Sonata for Cello and Eight Instruments; Four Spencer Pieces; Three Auden Songs; Partita for solo violin; In My Craft or Sullen Art
PERFORMER: Mark Padmore (tenor), Huw Watkins (piano), Alina Ibragimova (violin), Paul Watkins (cello); Nash Ensemble, Elias Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: NMCD164

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What strikes you most about Huw Watkins’s music is its natural ease. Lyricism flourishes, and tonal echoes are exposed alongside chromatic scrunches and abrasive textures. He’s even unafraid of the illustrative: Four Spencer Pieces, for the piano, vividly conjure four Stanley Spencer paintings, wrapped in the sounds of tolling bells.

This splendid portrait disc in NMC’s new strand of debuts starts with the 1999 Sonata for cello and ensemble, a stunning achievement for a 22 year-old. Its density of thought also characterises the 2006 violin Partita, despatched with Alina Ibragimova’s usual febrile focus, and the Dylan Thomas setting, In My Craft or Sullen Art, for tenor and string quartet. The performances are ebulliently expressive, with the exception of Mark Padmore in the settings of Thomas and WH Auden – his voice shrill, or bleached, in recording.

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Geoff Brown