Piano Recital 1986 - Franz Liszt / André Watts

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LISZT Piano Sonata. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13. Valse oubliée No. 1. 6 Paganini Etudes. Au lac de Wallenstadt. Il penseroso • André Watts (pn) •...
LISZT Piano Sonata. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13. Valse oubliée No. 1. 6 Paganini Etudes. Au lac de Wallenstadt. Il penseroso André Watts (pn) HÄNSSLER CD 93.718 (77:08) Live: Schwetzingen 5/25/1986

This is a live concert, but the sound is on par with just about any studio recording, and there is no applause, or any other distraction, from the audience. Liszt has figured prominently in André Watts’s repertory, both on disc and in concert, and there is nothing in this recital that you won’t find on one of the two Liszt CDs that he recorded for EMI not long before. There are the expected benefits and hazards. Watts has an occasional moment of slightly (very slightly!) less than flawless fingerwork—which is not something one would expect on a disc recorded in a studio, of course. On the other hand, Watts is more spontaneous here than on the EMI discs, which present his pianism purring and powerful like the engine of a racing car. There is purring and power here too, but also a touch of the unexpected, and that makes this new release worth exploring, especially if you don’t want to invest in the pair of EMI releases. (They were reissued at a bargain price in the label’s Double Fforte series, but that two-CD set is no longer in print.)

I think it’s been a while since Watts released a new CD, and it is good to be reminded what a terrific pianist he was … and I hope still is. (He is still a few years from his 70th birthday, and holds a faculty position at Indiana University in Bloomington.) His Liszt Totentanz is one of the most electrifying piano recordings ever made, and it reveals him—as does the present release—as having supreme digital dexterity and a flair for old-school virtuosity. At the same time, he never has been an effect-mongering showoff, and the performances on this CD confirm that intelligence and good taste are part of his skill set as well. I’ve heard more cohesive readings of the Sonata in B Minor, it’s true, but the music certainly does not fall apart, and Watts always keeps the big picture in focus. Some might be surprised by his strong flair for the Magyar elements in the Hungarian Rhapsody; they should remember that Watts’s mother was Hungarian.

If you don’t have any of Watts’s Liszt, I’d recommend this highly. If you do, I’d still recommend it, although I don’t think it eclipses the studio recordings.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 24, 2012

  • UPC: 4010276025153

  • Catalog Number: 93718

  • Label: SWR Classic

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Franz Liszt

  • Performer: André Watts