Debussy Sonata for cello and piano
Britten Cello Suite no. 3
Hellawell atria for cello and piano (BMS commission)
Mendelssohn Cello Sonata in D
“Seraphic cello-playing…Paul Watkins… turns even an off-beat pizzicato into a thing of joy”
Belfast Telegraph Review
Thursday 21st February 2013
Paul Watkins and Huw Watkins cello and piano
Great Hall Queen’s University Belfast
Cellist Paul Watkins is already well known in Belfast as a principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra. But it was in his duo with his brother pianist Huw that together they opened the Belfast Music Society’s chamber music festival last night in the Great Hall of Queen’s University.
A large audience greeted this dynamic duo, both players drawing out the special energy and thrust of Debussy’s Cello Sonata. Here the contrast between subtlety and extroversion was stark, almost extreme, but totally arresting.
It could be just my imagination, but it seemed that the fraternal rapport between these two excellent musicians was particularly noticeable. It was however in the solo Suite no.3 Op.87 by Benjamin Britten that Paul Watkins showed his complete mastery of his instrument. This technically all embracing work, so improvisatory at times, held no insuperable challenges for him although it was the richness and beauty of his tone which left the most abiding impression.
Piers Hellawell introduced his new piece ” atria” which was specially written for the brothers Watkins. An intriguing sound world unfolded in a series of five movements in each of which the piano was to an extent the stable factor while the cello experimented with a range of sounds and techniques. As always with Hellawell’s music, there was an attractively natural flow of colour.
The duo ended their recital exuberantly with Mendelssohn’s second sonata which left us in no doubt of the virtuosity of both brothers.