“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 studied the cello with William Pleeth, whilst reading Music at Cambridge, where he was also a Choral Scholar. He was a Shell/LSO Finalist and was Principal cello in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, receiving the Bulgin Medal for outstanding contribution. Since then he has been Principal Cello in some of the world’s leading ensembles including English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. As Principal Cello in the Philharmonia Orchestra, he opened the first season in the new Philharmonie, Luxemburg with William Tell under Muti, and performed solos ranging from those in Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto under Mackerras, to the computer game ‘Medal of Honour’. He is now Principal Cello in SCO.
Watkin has made a wide range of acclaimed recordings including the Vivaldi Sonatas (Hyperion) and Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante with OAE (Virgin). With pianist Howard Moody he has recorded Beethoven Sonatas (Chandos) and Francis Pott's 1996 Sonata (Guild). Their London debut in 1988 was described by The Times as "absolutely electrifying". They have since broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3 and performances have included the complete works for piano and cello by Beethoven at Wigmore Hall. He has been a soloist at 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 and Fredericka von Stade.
Unaccompanied Bach has taken him all over Europe, from the Palace of Frederick the Great at Potsdam to the Prague Spring Festival, and included performances as part of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, sitting by the font in which Bach was baptised. He was a juror for the Leipzig Bach Competition.
David Watkin has revived the eighteenth-century practice of realising figured bass (improvising chordal accompaniments) on the cello and used it in recordings from Corelli with Andrew Manze (hmusa) to Mozart with Sir Charles Mackerras /SCO (DGG) and OAE (Chandos). His writings about this and other aspects of music have been published by Early Music, The Strad and the Cambridge University Press volume Performing Beethoven.
As a founder member of the Eroica Quartet he has performed all over Europe and the US, including at Wigmore Hall, the Frick Collection, New York, and the Library of Congress, Washington. They have recorded to great acclaim the complete quartets of Mendelssohn and Schumann and a Beethoven disc (hmusa), the world premiere recording of Mendelssohn’s Octet original version and quartets by Debussy and Ravel (Resonus).
Having worked under, and received guidance from some of the leading conductors of the age, conducting is now an increasingly important part of his music making. He has conducted a wide range of repertoire with groups including the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Swedish Baroque Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Plans for 2013 include further performances of Schubert's C major Quintet with the Tokyo Quartet (following their recording for hmusa), a recording of the complete Bach Suites and a recording of the G major Prelude for a TV programme with Gardiner. Conducting engagements include a return to the Meadows Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Consort and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.