Since his first concert tour of South America in 1986, which included over forty engagements in eight weeks, Scott Watkins has appeared as recitalist and soloist on three continents, to enthusiastic applause and high critical acclaim.
In June of 1999, Mr. Watkins made a highly successful New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall that elicited a standing ovation from the often-blasÃ© Manhattan audience. Watkins' debut solo disc for the Saragossa Digital label, which features works from his New York recital, was relased in November 1999 to high praise. Folio Weekly, in a review of this disc, called Watkins "a polished player in his prime."
A native of Ohio, Watkins studied at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, The University of South Carolina, and The Florida State University, numbering among his teachers Bela Siki, Raymond Dudley, Marilyn Neeley and Edward Kilenyi. He has also worked with Eugene Istomin and Alexis Weissenberg. His U.S. debut in Chicago in 1985 was followed by a steady flow of performance in South America, Europe and the Caribbean; and festival appearances at the Glenn Could Festival in Toronto, the William Kapell Festival in Maryland, Brevard Music Center, Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, and the Garth Newel Music Festival in Virginia. Other notable engagements include recitals at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Preston Bradley Hall in Chicago, the Brahms Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, and Santa Maria di Spaltena in Gaiole, Italy.
Watkins' concerto engagements have included performances with The Cincinnati Philharmonia, The Maracaibo (Venezuela) Philharmonic, The Montevideo Philharmonic, The Sherman (Texas) Symphony Orchestra, The Brevard (Florida) Symphony Orchestra, The Toronto Symphony, and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, under the batons of such conductors as Philip Spurgeon, Christopher Confessore, Fabio Mechetti, Federico Garcia Vigil, Andrew Davis, and Sir Lawrence Dutt. He has given many performances of new music, among them the world premieres of From These Shores, a fantasy for piano by Elie Siegmeister, in Caracas in 1986, and Song and Dance by Ned Rorem, in Santiago in 1987.
Scott Watkins is the recipient of numorous awards, including the John Philip Sousa Award for Outstanding American Musicians, Rotary Club of Florida's Annual Artistic Merit Award, and France's Jeunesse Musicales. In 1985, he became the youngest winner ever of The United States' Department of State's Artistic Ambassador Award.
His performances have been heard frequently in the U.S. and Canada on National Public Radio, and in South America and Europe on The Voice of America. Watkins' recordings include a disc of late romantic lieder with baritone, Steven White, and two solo discs (one which features works from his New York debut, and another called Christmas Cards, and features music for the Holiday Season in works by Bach, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Grainger, and others).
An active chamber musician, Watkins has performed with the LaSalle Quartet, and was a founding member of the Florida Arts Trio, with whom he is frequently heard. Also much in demand as an accompanist, he appeared with soprano Elizabeth Futral and baritone Steven White for their recital of Wolff's Italian Song Book in Chicago.
Watkins maintains an active performing and teaching schedule and is a champion of rarely heard works in his recitals, including Tchaikovsky's Grand Sonata in G major, and Enescu's Third Piano Sonata. Watkins was recently appointed Artist-in-Residence at Jacksonville University, and is a member of the Palm Court Society Orchestra whose specialty is authentic performances of tangos, foxtrots, and other turn-of-the-century society dance music.
The world's first Christmas Card was designed in 1843 by Englishman J. C. Horsley. The size of an ordinary postcard, it depicted charitable offerings of clothing and food for the needy, and also depicted a happy family gathering, drinking a toast to Christmas and the New Year. Each of the "Christmas Cards" on this disc represents a characterstic scene or mood of the Holiday season. Christmas and music, it seems, go hand in hand, and so I have selected inspiring music to help rekindle within each of you the spirit and magic of Christmas.
Christmas Cards begins with J. S. Bach's immortal Joy of Man's Desiring, transcribed by the great English pianist Dame Myra Hess. Karl Barth, a brilliant theologian, once said that he wasn't sure if angels played Bach when praising God, but he was certain that when they got together for fun, they played Mozart. The rondo from the Sonata in B-flat, K. 333, reminds me of innocent days when I was a boy in Ohio, and of making angels in the snow. The Christmas Tree by Franz Liszt is a delightful suite of pieces composed for his granddaughter. Particularly moving are the arrangements of In dulce jubilo, and Adeste Fidelis. One cannot hear Carillon without imagining the joy and excitement of Christmas morning and the peal of church bells.
George Frederic Handel inspired the world with his masterpiece, The Messiah, and my program continues with a tribute to the English master. His Variations on an Air in E is a joyous creation of ever-expanding energy. Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker has become a Christmastime tradition, and his suite, The Seasons, contains some imaginative and charming music. Warm your heart telling stories By the Fireside; grab a harness and take a refreshing Sleigh-Ride; and dance to a delightful waltz to celebrate Christmas. American composer John Ness-Beck, well-known for his choral compositions, has captured the spirit of today's Christmas with his modern and intoxicating arrangements of traditional carols. And finally, find comfort and quiet in Percy Grainger's moving Sussex Mummer's Christmas Carol.
I hope Christmas Cards gives flight to your imagination, and rekindles happy memories of "Christmases long, long ago." May the music you hear on this disc and everywhere renew in you the spirit of the season.
--- Scott Watkins
1. Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
2. Mozart: Sonata in B-flat, KV333, Allegretto grazioso
3. Liszt: Christmas Tree, O Holy Night
4. Liszt: Christmas Tree, Psallite
5. Liszt: Christmas Tree, Scherzo - Lighting the Tree
6. Liszt: Christmas Tree, Berceuse - Slumber Song
7. Liszt: Christmas Tree, Shepherds at the Manger - In dulce jubil
8. Liszt: Christmas Tree, Carillon - Chimes
9. Liszt: Christmas Tree, March of the Three Holy Kings - Adeste F
10. Handel: Variations on an Air in E major
11. Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, By the Fireside
12. Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Snowdrop
13. Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Barcarolle
14. Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Sleigh-Ride
15. Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Christmas
16. John Ness-Beck: Five Carol Fantasies, What Child is This?
17. John Ness-Beck: Five Carol Fantasies, Bring a Torch, Jeanette Is
18. John Ness-Beck: Five Carol Fantasies, Appalachian Christmas Caro
19. John Ness-Beck: Five Carol Fantasies, Goc Rest Ye Merry, Gentlem
20. John Ness-Beck: Five Carol Fantasies, Joy to the World
21. Grainger: A Sussex Mummer's Christmas Carol