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Jed Distler, November 2012

Although André Watts recorded all of these selections commercially for EMI in the 1980s, the 1986 Schwetzingen Festival SWR broadcast recordings issued here for the first time are anything but redundant. For starters, the close-up, slightly dry yet full bodied engineering captures Watts’ sonority with more impact and realism compared to their relatively resonant, glassy-toned EMI counterparts. Secondly, the Schwetzingen Festival performances reach higher levels of inspiration, spontaneity, and communicative immediacy, all to the music’s benefit.

The two selections from the Années de Pèlerinage retain EMI’s suave surface but with more nuanced articulation in softer passages. In the Third and Fourth Paganini Etudes, Watts enlivens his rather sedate basic tempos with impetuous accents and dynamic surges.

A splendid find from the Schwetzingen Festival archives, and a must for André Watts admirers. © 2012

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