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Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to American pianist André Watts!

André Watts (Steve J. Sherman photo)

Watts was born in Nuremberg, Germany, to a Hungarian mother and an African American U.S. Army soldier. His mother was his first piano teacher, and by the age of nine, he had won a competition to perform on a children’s concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Watts became a part of the American musical fabric when, at the age of sixteen, he appeared on a nationally televised Young People’s Concert with the New York Philharmonic on January 15, 1963, performing Liszt’s First Piano Concerto under the baton of Leonard Bernstein. Two weeks later, an ailing Glenn Gould canceled with the Philharmonic, and Bernstein invited Watts to perform the same Liszt concerto on subscription concerts on short notice. Columbia Masterworks soon recorded Watts’s interpretation, and the release The Exciting Debut of André Watts won the 1963 Grammy Award for Most Promising New Classical Recording Artist.

Watts became a student of Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory, combining his studies with a packed concert schedule that quickly included as many as 150 concerts a year. He soon made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in June 1965, one day before his nineteenth birthday. Since then, Watts has been a frequent guest, appearing with the Orchestra on many occasions, as follows:

June 19, 1965, Ravinia Festival
MACDOWELL Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 23
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

May 7, 8, and 9, 1970, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

Watt’s debut with the CSO at the Ravinia Festival on June 19, 1965

July 14, 1970, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
István Kertész, conductor

May 20, 21, and 22, 1971, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Henry Mazer, conductor

December 2 and 3, 1971, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

July 18, 1972, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 3, 1974, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
James Levine, conductor

August 3, 1975, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Lawrence Foster, conductor

July 15, 1976, Ravinia Festival
MACDOWELL Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 23
James Levine, conductor

July 7, 1977, Ravinia Festival
FRANCK Symphonic Variations
LISZT Totentanz
James Levine, conductor

Watt’s Ravinia Festival debut biography (June 19, 1965)

May 31 and June 1, 1979, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Concerto for Piano No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

July 7, 1979, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
James Levine, conductor

July 11, 1980, Ravinia Festival
FRANCK Symphonic Variations
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22
James Levine, conductor

June 28, 1981, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
James Levine, conductor

August 7, 1982, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Maxim Shostakovich, conductor

July 13, 1984, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
James Levine, conductor

July 12, 1985, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
James Levine, conductor

January 23, 24, and 26, 1986, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
LISZT Totentanz
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

July 11, 1986, Ravinia Festival
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22
James Levine, conductor

August 15, 1987, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
George Cleve, conductor

Watt’s debut with the CSO in Orchestra Hall on May 7, 8, and 9, 1970

July 2, 1989, Ravinia Festival
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22
James Levine, conductor

July 20, 1991, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor

July 17, 1992, Ravinia Festival
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
James Conlon, conductor

February 25, 26, 27, and 28, 1993, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25
David Loebel, conductor

July 23, 1993, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
John Nelson, conductor

November 1, 1993, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Gerhardt Zimmermann, conductor

August 6, 1994, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

June 30, 1995, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

January 24 and 25, 1996, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
LISZT Totentanz
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

January 26, 1996, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
LISZT Totentanz
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Watt’s CSO subscription concert debut biography (May 7, 8, and 9, 1970)

January 27, 1996, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

July 2, 1996, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
MACDOWELL Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 23
LUTOSŁAWSKI Variations on a Theme by Paganini
Hermann Michael, conductor

August 1, 1997, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

May 14, 15, 16, and 19, 1998, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor

August 14, 1998, Ravinia Festival
FRANCK Symphonic Variations
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 16, 1999, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Claus Peter Flor, conductor

November 2, 1999, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
William Eddins, conductor

January 11, 2000, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

André Watts in 1971 (James J. Kriegsmann photo)

August 4, 2000, Ravinia Festival
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Roberto Abbado, conductor

April 19, 20, and 21, 2001, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

July 1, 2001, Ravinia Festival
SCHUBERT/Stein Fantasy in F Minor, D. 940
LISZT Totentanz
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 29, 2005, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

August 5, 2007, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
James Conlon, conductor

July 8, 2011, Ravinia Festival
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

Happy, happy birthday!

horowitz-cover

All of a sudden, Vladimir Horowitz is everywhere. Especially in Chicago.

In addition to Deutsche Grammophon releasing Horowitz: Return to Chicago, Sony Classical has issued a set of the pianist’s unreleased live recital recordings, covering thirteen programs recorded at twenty-five concerts in fourteen different venues between 1966 and 1983. And four of those concerts were recorded in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, on May 12, 1968; November 2, 1975; and April 8 and 15, 1979.

Program book cover for November 2, 1975

November 2, 1975, program book cover

These live recordings were made by Columbia Masterworks (1966–1968) and RCA Red Seal (1975–1983), and—with the exception of a few tracks released on compilation albums—the vast majority of the material has never been previously available. The fifty-disc set recently was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album.

“Vladimir Horowitz’s piano technique is so comprehensive that it diminishes everyone else,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune, following the November 1975 performance, presented under the auspices of Allied Arts. “When he summons the power and clangor for bravura passages, the other powerhouses by comparison sound like lightweights. But when he relaxes into pellucid cascades of an impressionist Liszt tone poem, other light-fingered specialists seem to have developed fingers of lead. . . . Horowitz is not only in a class by himself, he is apparently indestructible. Ten years after his return to the concert stage, the seventy-one-year-old virtuoso has the endurance, the control, and the coiled-spring presence to make each appearance an unforgettable event. . . . Horowitz today is as much a giant as ever.”

November 2, 1975

November 2, 1975

In addition to the works on the program, the audience—including an extra 150 on the stage—demanded no less than six encores: Schumann’s Träumerei from Kinderszenen; Scarlatti’s Sonata in A major, K. 322; Moszkowski’s Étincelles; Chopin’s Black Key Etude in G-flat major, op. 10, no. 5 and Mazurka in A minor, op. 17, no. 4; and finally Rachmaninov’s Étude-Tableaux in D major, op. 39, no. 9. All are included on the release.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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