American Pianists Association; Christel DeHaan Center; Oct. 25.
It's been some 20 years since Indy has hosted a world-class pianist for a solo recital. And that prior one was given by the same artist, André Watts. We can thank the American Pianists Association for launching a new series, Grand Encounters, which will feature a mix of APA Fellows and veteran performers. Last Sunday afternoon, the series got a most auspicious start from Watts playing an all Franz program: Franz Schubert and Franz Liszt. From the simple, taught-to-every-piano-student Schubert "Moment Musicale" No. 3 in F Minor to the mighty Liszt B Minor Sonata and the loud, show-offy Schubert "Wanderer" Fantasy in C, D. 760, one word made this the most memorable recital heard recently: conviction. Watts moved his fingers over the 88 keys of a Steinway Model D with power and tenderness exactly when called for - first in three of Schubert's Moments Musicaux, then in a short Liszt Etude and followed by the composer's 20-minute, all-in-one-movement Sonata -- Liszt's only one in that genre. Watts made as convincing a case for the sonata as anyone I've heard. Following the break, we had another three short Liszt pieces, followed by Schubert's late written Klavierstücke No. 2, D. 946, musically more interesting than the concluding "Wanderer Fantasy," the latter's slow section derived from the Viennese composer's earlier song, "Der Wanderer." Loud and splashy at the beginning and end, Watts impressed with his absolute control of material so difficult, even Schubert himself couldn't play it.