Saturday, May 19, 2012

50+ Years of Musicmaking: André Watts

Watts in 1971
Continuing the theme of invoking the great ones when they're still with us, I meant to post an entry on a true maestro, André Watts (1946-), who made his concert début with the New York Philharmonic 50 years ago this upcoming December when another maestro, Philharmonic conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, invited the 16-year-old Watts to perform Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat at a Young People's Concert. The Philharmonic taped Watts's performance and broadcast it on CBS in January 15, 1963.  Right before the airing of the December concert, Bernstein again called upon Watts to spell an ill Glenn Gould, who was the scheduled soloist, for the Philharmonic's regular subscription series, and he again played the Liszt Concerto. So electrifying was his performance that not only the audience, but the entire orchestra gave him a standing ovation.  He has never looked back. Over the years he continued his musical studies, has performed all over the world, and now teaches at Indiana University's famed Jacobs School of Music. In 2011 President Barack Obama awarded him the National Medal of the Arts.

Watts today
Recently I listened to a podcast interview with him, from the National Endowment the Arts' Art Work Podcast series, in which he talked about his life and career, from his earliest years growing up in Europe as a son of a Hungarian mother and an African-American GI father, to how Bernstein selected him for that breakthrough Young People's Concert, to his love of certain musicians (Liszt especially) and lack of interest in others (Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók, two of my favorites), and much more.  Back in 1999, The Chicago Tribune featured a micro-interview with him, and it underlines what the NEA interview suggests, which is that he's got a buoyant sense of humor, doesn't take himself too seriously, and is grateful for all the success he's achieved, but is always pushing himself further. I'm also attaching some YouTube clips of Watts' setting the keyboard on fire. These are pieces I rarely listen to (I am much more a 20th and 21st century fan, J. S. Bach excepted, but played this well I can listen to them over and over.) Enjoy my fellow Gemini.

Non-embed: Watts performing the opening to Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1, in G-minor

André Watts performing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (video 1 of 2)

Watts performing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (video 2 of 2)

André Watts performing in Liszt's Sonato Tokyo

André Watts performing Scarlatti sonatas

No comments:

Post a Comment