Renowned British composer and pianist Huw Watkins will join ProMusica Chamber Orchestra as guest soloist and guest composer, as the orchestra features its second annual "Composer/Performer Project" concert this weekend in the Southern Theatre. ProMusica will present the U.S. premiere of Watkins' Little Symphony, and Watkins will perform Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. The concert also continues ProMusica's Schubert Cycle with the powerful and moving Symphony No. 4.

Renowned British composer and pianist Huw Watkins will join ProMusica Chamber Orchestra as guest soloist and guest composer, as the orchestra features its second annual "Composer/Performer Project" concert this weekend in the Southern Theatre. ProMusica will present the U.S. premiere of Watkins' Little Symphony, and Watkins will perform Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. The concert also continues ProMusica's Schubert Cycle with the powerful and moving Symphony No. 4.

Watkins was kind enough to discuss this unique program with The Beat.

The Beat: This concert is part of a ProMusica initiative called Composer/Performer. Perhaps this notion is not that unusual to you, but it might be to audiences. Your thoughts? Do you do programs like this often?

Huw Watkins: Composing and performing are equally important parts of my life, and I can't imagine doing one without the other. I like this sort of initiative because it gives audiences the chance to get a much more thorough impression of the composer. I try to get involved in programs like this as often as possible.

TB: Can you share just a brief musical bio of yourself, and specifically how you began composing? Did you always anticipate composition as well as performing?

HW: I think I first became interested in composing when I saw my older brother, Paul, writing some music. I wanted to do the same! He went on to become a cellist (in fact, moving to New York to join the Emerson Quartet two years ago), but composing became a bit of an obsession for me. I studied music at Cambridge University and then specifically composition at the Royal College of Music in London. While a student, it became obvious that one of the best ways to get your music heard was to play it yourself, so I ended up doing quite a bit of that (and still do).

TB: This performance marks the U.S. premiere of your Little Symphony. Can you share a bit about the piece, its inspiration and your anticipation of yet another premiere.

HW: I wrote the piece, which is scored for string orchestra, for Orchestra of the Swan. They are a wonderfully resourceful group based in Stratford-upon-Avon, and I wanted to write something that would show off the exuberance of their playing, and also give them a chance to make a beautiful, lyrical sound. I've heard so many great things about ProMusica, so I can't wait to come to Columbus to hear how the piece will sound there.

TB: As a performer, how do approach the Shostakovich piece?

HW: The Shostakovich is tremendous fun to perform. I approach it with great pleasure, because I know it's always a piece that audiences seem to love. I've also been listening to recordings of Shostakovich's piano playing. I want to try to recreate some of the almost manic energy he had in my own performance.

TB: You've traveled much as both a performer and composer. Is there a special place you've been or a special premiere of one of your works that you can recall?

HW: It was really thrilling for me when the London Symphony Orchestra gave the premiere of my flute concerto at the Barbican Centre in London last year. Not only because they are one of the world's great orchestras (and their flautist, Adam Walker is quite sensational) but also because their conductor, Daniel Harding, and I were at school together, so the whole occasion became a lot of fun, too.