Magazine article Gramophone

Andre Watts, the 'Giant': Bryce Morrison Celebrates the Talent of Andre Watts Rob Cowan Explores the Bamberg SO's First 70 Years

Magazine article Gramophone

Andre Watts, the 'Giant': Bryce Morrison Celebrates the Talent of Andre Watts Rob Cowan Explores the Bamberg SO's First 70 Years

Article excerpt

'You see, I adore talent.' This simple declaration by Alice Pogorelich, during our time together as jury members of the Ivo Pogorelich Competition, returned to me as I listened to Sony Classical's 12-CD tribute to Andre Watts (retailing at about 30 [pounds sterling]). And as I listened, dazzled and bemused, I also recalled Horowitz's dictum 'without temperament, nothing'. Watts had talent and temperament in spades, his charisma only equalled in America by the tragically short-lived William Kapell. Launched by Bernstein, to replace the ever-ailing Glenn Gould, the 16-year-old Watts rocketed to an all-American superstardom, later playing up to 150 concerts a year. Such early exposure and acclaim has its dangers, as many have found to their cost; and if Watts is unquestionably a 'giant' (Bernstein), there are times in Sony's sumptuous set that you wish he would downsize his immense gifts in the interests of a finer, more perceptive musicianship. This is notably true of the Liszt Sonata, where his depth-charge virtuosity (try the octaves before the valedictory coda) makes you more conscious of an engulfing brilliance than of Liszt's musical landmark. Watts may have confessed that he often spoke to the piano before a concert, hoping for 'love and friendship between us', but his blistering assault on the six Paganini Etudes (try the trill at the climax of 'La campanella') must have sent his instrument running for cover.

There are hints, too, in the Tchaikovsky First Concerto of a glib, quick-fix alternative to genuine musical quality, a surprisingly heavy-handed way with the Andantino's central Prestissimo (that 'scherzo of fireflies')--and Bernstein's fulsome sense of Tchaikovsky's rhetoric could cause more than a raised eyebrow in Moscow circles. But drawing a line under what may well seem a churlish and mealy-mouthed commentary, I have to say that virtually everything else induces wonder and amazement.

Hear Watts's first entry in the Andante of Brahms's Second Concerto, that slow upward spiral where, as he put it, 'you have to take a deep breath and hold it until you reach the top; you have to be a singer rather than a pianist'. His Rachmaninov Third may suffer from once-acceptable cuts but the performance (with its combination of both cadenzas and flash-of-the-octave ossia elaboration at the end) will set all pulses racing as it hurdes to its triumphant close. Muscles bulge and ripple in Liszt's Totentanz, which can scarcely have been given with a more malignant sense of glee, while on the solo front there is one marvel after another. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.