Saturday, March 17, 2018 André Watts, the African-American and Hungarian concert pianist

André Watts

The young Watts with Leonard Bernstein on album cover.

Hungarian Free Press

March 15, 2018

György Lázár

As part of our series on lesser known Hungarian Americans we introduce an American superstar, concert pianist André Watts. We feel that this piece is timely since the Orbán government is supporting “ethnic homogeneity” and envisions a white Christian Hungary defending Europe from the “hordes” of Africa and the Middle-East.

André Watts is a living legend, a musical virtuoso and the first black concert pianist to achieve international super stardom.

Watts was born in 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany. The son of an African American soldier, Herman Watts, and a Hungarian refugee mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits. Watts lived in Europe until the age of eight when his father was reassigned to the US and the family settled in Philadelphia. His parents divorced in 1962 and Watts lived with his Hungarian American mother.

Watts started with the violin at age four and switched to piano at age six. His first teacher was his mother. Since her boy hated to practice she started to tell him stories about the great Hungarian pianist Ferenc Liszt, pointing out how he practiced faithfully. Watts had a lifelong admiration of Liszt and even adopted Liszt’s bravura playing style. The child protégé won his first piano competition at age nine in Philadelphia and got a big break at the Young People’s Concert that was broadcast on CBS on January 15, 1963. Leonard Bernstein introduced the wunderkind to the American audience.

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