Sunday, November 11, 2012

FANFARE Review by Raymond Tuttle: 'If you don’t have any of Watts’s Liszt, I’d recommend this highly. If you do, I’d still recommend it...'

FANFARE Magazine
Review by Raymond Tuttle excerpted at

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 [Avery Fisher Hall, New York], but the sound is on par with just about any studio recording, and there is no applause, or any other distraction. 

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

Works on This Recording

1. Valses oubliées (4) for Piano, S 215: no 1 in F sharp major by Franz Liszt

2. Sonata for Piano in B minor, S 178 by Franz Liszt

3. Hungarian Rhapsodies (19) for Piano, S 244: no 13 in A minor by Franz Liszt

4. Grandes Etudes (6) de Paganini, S 141 by Franz Liszt

5. Années de pèlerinage, première année, S 160 "Suisse": no 2, Au lac de Wallenstadt by Franz Liszt

6. Années de pèlerinage, deuxième année, S 161 "Italie": no 2, Il penseroso by Franz Liszt

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