William Butt was born in London in 1968 and studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with Moray Welsh and at McGill University in Montreal with Antonio Lysy.
He now enjoys a busy career as a leading soloist, chamber musician and teacher, performing extensively throughout Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe. He is a much admired exponent of the solo cello repertoire, having performed and broadcast the Bach suites and numerous 20th century compositions, including the formidable sonata for solo cello by Zoltán Kodály and the three suites by Britten. In recent seasons he has appeared as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and the Ulster Orchestra, performing and broadcasting many of the major cello concertos, including those by Dvořák, Shostakovich, Walton, Saint Saëns and Haydn.
William Butt is a member of the Hibernia String Trio and teaches at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. His cello was made in 1690 by Giovanni Grancino of Milan.
Smitten with the virtuosity of cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Benjamin Britten set out to write a Cello Sonata for him, the Sonata in C, which Rostropovich performed at Aldeburgh in 1961 with the composer at the piano. Several other works for Rostropovich followed, among them the three solo suites of 1964, 1967 and 1971.
It is inevitably Bach’s supreme example that lies behind much of Britten’s thinking in his three solo cello suites. The First Suite in G major was written in 1964 following a visit to the USSR and given its première by Rostropovich at the 1965 Aldeburgh Festival. The Second Suite followed in 1967, receiving its first performance at the Aldeburgh Festival the following year. The Third Suite was written in just nine days in the spring of 1971. The composer took it with him as a present to Rostropovich when he and Peter Pears visited Leningrad (St Petersburg) and Moscow in April of that year. As a tribute to Rostropovich’s Russian heritage, Britten constructed the suite as a set of variations on four traditional Russian themes. The first performance was given by Mstislav Rostropovich at Aldeburgh in December 1974.