Andre Watts combined subtlety and brilliance in his stunning piano recital at George Mason University's Center for the Arts Saturday night. His warm, balanced sound was particularly well suited to the magnificent acoustics of the center's new concert hall.
Three pieces by Schubert constituted the program's first half, including the Klavierstueck No. 1, D. 946, the delightful A Major Sonata, D. 664, and the moving and powerful "Wanderer" Fantasie, D. 760. Watts displayed phenomenal control of sonority and articulation, while doing full justice to both the lyric and the harmonic interest that characterizes Schubert's mature style.
The second half began with Chopin's B-flat Minor Sonata, Op. 35. Even Watts's impressive technique -- and this work calls for plenty of it -- took a back seat to the barely audible but hauntingly clear tone with which he began the third movement, the famous Funeral March. Here, both the pianist and the hall were at their level best, creating an unforgettable and appropriate effect.
Watts brought radiant colors and textural clarity to bear on his stylish interpretations of three pieces by Debussy: "La Plus Que Lente," "Danse" and "L'Isle Joyeuse." Predictably, Watts's sure handling of the fiendishly difficult "L'Isle Joyeuse" brought the greatest response from the large audience, but it was in the rhythmic flexibility and sonorous subtleties of "La Plus que lente" that this master of control revealed his greatest gift.