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MUSIC REVIEWS

Andre Watts, Imaginative and Distracted

February 26, 1996|HERBERT GLASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The recital by Andre Watts at the Veterans Wadsworth Theater on Friday had its shining moments. It couldn't be otherwise with this superbly accomplished pianist.

But there were two Wattses on display: the distracted one, who produced almost indistinguishable blurs of sound in overly theatrical, rhythmically wayward accounts of two big Chopin works, the F-major Ballade and the F-minor Fantaisie. Ditto the final work on the listed program, "Alborada del gracioso" from Ravel's "Miroirs," which, additionally, contained a more than acceptable number of spilled notes and which elicited one of the more curiously misplaced standing ovations in recent memory.

Another Watts--secure, poetic, imaginative--took the stage in the second of Schubert's splendid posthumous impromptus, D. 946, and in two additional "Miroirs" selections, "Oiseaux tristes" and "La vallee des cloches."

Earlier, Haydn's Sonata in C, No. 48 in the Hoboken catalog, found the pianist otherwise engaged, failing to bind the opening variations movement into a cohesive whole and tossing off the perversely simple (and charming) Rondo-finale with what seemed disdainful ease.

The program opened with some Bach and Scarlatti, too obviously included for warming-up purposes. In the second of several encores, however, Chopin's "Aeolian Harp" etude, the Watts of fondest memory returned, with playing of gorgeously bold, unforced sonority and lyric grace.

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