André Watts

American pianist André Watts was born in Nuremberg, Germany on 20 June 1946. His mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits, was a Hungarian pianist and his father, Herman Watts, was an officer in the US Army, often posted abroad, and of African-American background.  After an early start on the violin, André Watts began to study piano with his mother, now living in Philadelphia.

At nine, he won a competition, playing a Haydn piano concerto at the Philadelphia Orchestra Children's Concerts, and at ten he played Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No 1 in G minor with the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra. At fourteen he played Franck's Symphonic Variations with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and at sixteen he recorded Liszt's Piano Concerto No 1 in E flat at Carnegie Hall with Leonard Bernstein, which was later broadcast nationally.

Watts studied with Doris Bawden, Clement Petrillo and Genia Robinor at the Philadelphia Musical Academy and then at Baltimore's Peabody Institute with Leon Fleisher, but by then he was appearing all over the USA at top venues.

By the mid-1970s he was giving about 150 performances per season, working for eight months each year. In 1985 he signed a recording contract with EMI, and recorded with them until the early 1990s. He also recorded for Teldec.

André Watts (1946-2023). Photo: James Kriegsmann
André Watts (1946-2023). Photo: James Kriegsmann


From 2002 onwards he began to have health problems, including two injuries which affected his left hand. From 2004 he taught at Indiana University. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016, but later managed to rework Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand to perform with his right hand, and played it with the Atlanta and Detroit Symphony Orchestras.

André Watts died from cancer on 12 July 2023, aged seventy-seven.


A selection of articles about André Watts

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