Oliver, who was born and brought up in Manchester, took up the clarinet at the age of 15 in 2008. For ten years before that he had studied the violin but had decided it wasn’t the instrument for him. His grandfather, John Fuest, had played clarinet with the CBSO and convinced Oliver to give the instrument a go. The rest is history!
After two years of lessons with his grandfather, Oliver went to Chethams School of Music to study with Rosa Campos-Fernandez. He followed this with four years at the Royal Academy of Music with Mark van de Wiel. After graduation Oliver freelanced with some of the London orchestras before joining the CBSO as Principal Clarinet in December 2014, describing the months since that as ‘the time of my life’. He singles out the Beethoven Cycle in Bonn and Birmingham with Andris Nelsons as a memory he’ll never forget.
Outside of the CBSO, Oliver enjoys watching sports in general, playing tennis and cricket and balancing all that physical activity with a love of ‘cooking and eating lots of nice food!’
Alexei Watkins graduated from the Royal Academy of Music with First Class Honours in July 2017 and a Master of Arts Degree with Distinction in September 2018. During his time at the Academy, amongst other accolades, he was awarded the Dennis Brain Prize.
As a soloist, Alexei has given recitals at venues including St John’s Smith Square, the Buxton International Festival, Blackheath Halls, the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival, Hampton Court Palace and Southwark Cathedral. Other recent solo engagements include Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto in Surbiton and Ealing as well as Mozart’s 3rd Horn Concerto in Guildford. Alexei has also performed the Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings both in the UK and abroad. In 2019 Alexei won the University of London Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and is looking forward to performing Strauss’ 1st Horn Concerto with the orchestra in 2022.
He is a keen orchestral player and has played Principal Horn with English National Opera, Glyndebourne Touring Orchestra and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. He also regularly plays with orchestras across the UK such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia. Alexei’s playing can also be heard on various Film and television soundtracks including the upcoming James Bond Film, “No Time To Die”.
Alexei particularly enjoys playing chamber music and has performed with the Nash Ensemble and London Winds at the Wigmore Hall and the Bath Mozartfest amongst others. Whilst at the Academy, Alexei won the Worshipful Company of Musicians Brass Ensemble Prize with his Brass Quintet and was a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians for Five years. In April 2015 he recorded Mozart’s Gran Partita with the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble and Strauss’ Wind Serenades with Aldeburgh Winds, both for Linn Records.