Andre Watts gets his share of swats from the critics--he was promoted heavily in his youth and there seems to be some kind of backlash in the music community as a result. Whether or not Watts is a musical lightweight (I don't think so) he is definitely at his best in my opinion here at Carnegie Hall.
The opening two sonatas, the Haydn Keyboard Sonata in C major and the symphonic Mozart K.332 in F are excellent vehicles for Watt's clarity of touch, fluidity and fine musical dynamics. In particular, he plays the third movement of the Mozart K.332 at breathtaking speed, a risk that is admirable in a live performance. And he succeeds brilliantly. This particular sonata is an endurance test, ending with that very allegro Allegro Assai, and yet Watts cuts no corners on the repeats nor falters when his technique and musicality are most needed to carry him through to the end of this major sonata. I want to yell BRAVO every time I listen to it.
Watts is less impressive to me when he plays the Brahms. Although these are not the heaviest of Brahms' works for piano, they still sound light to me when Watts plays them. I prefer a monster, I guess, like Richter or Gilels. Watts doesn't seem to have the (oh forgive me) wattage to power the massive Brahms sound. But still, there are bright spots, especially the Intermezzo.
Despite any reservations I may have about Watts and Brahms, I reach for this recording almost more often than any other piano recording I own. It's one of those rare CD's that captures a certain essence of pure piano, and I love it.