André Watts, the African-American and Hungarian concert pianist

As part of our series on lesser known Hungarian Americans we introduce an American superstar, concert pianist André Watts. We feel that this piece is timely since the Orbán government is supporting “ethnic homogeneity” and envisions a white Christian Hungary defending Europe from the “hordes” of Africa and the Middle-East.

André Watts is a living legend, a musical virtuoso and the first black concert pianist to achieve international super stardom.

André Watts

Watts was born in 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany. The son of an African American soldier, Herman Watts, and a Hungarian refugee mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits. Watts lived in Europe until the age of eight when his father was reassigned to the US and the family settled in Philadelphia. His parents divorced in 1962 and Watts lived with his Hungarian American mother.

Watts started with the violin at age four and switched to piano at age six. His first teacher was his mother. Since her boy hated to practice she started to tell him stories about the great Hungarian pianist Ferenc Liszt, pointing out how he practiced faithfully. Watts had a lifelong admiration of Liszt and even adopted Liszt’s bravura playing style. The child protégé won his first piano competition at age nine in Philadelphia and got a big break at the Young People’s Concert that was broadcast on CBS on January 15, 1963. Leonard Bernstein introduced the wunderkind to the American audience.

The young Watts with Leonard Bernstein on album cover.

Watts became an overnight sensation. Watt’s mother (and manager) restricted the teenager to six concerts in the first year. Watts had to finish college first. He got a degree in Music at Peabody Institute in Baltimore in 1972 and the next year he received a Grammy.

Watts has given thousands of concerts during the last five decades and had his fair share of problems, including a highly publicized divorce, financial difficulties and health issues. Last year the 71-year-old piano virtuoso cancelled his concert appearances after his publicist announced that he has prostate cancer.

André Watts is a remarkable musician, a great intellect and highly respected individual. He has visited Budapest several times; he gave concerts there and knew many Hungarian pianists among them the late Annie Fischer and Zoltán Kocsis. He also met with András Schiff. Watts does not speak Hungarian although he learned a couple of Hungarian words from his mother.

György Lázár

9 Comments

  1. What’s the point? That he is pianist or that he is half-breed?

    But why do not accept the fact, as an evidence that all humans able to interbreed. Therefore it is also an evidence that they are all of the same race. That is members of the same human race.

    So the intent is nothing more than RACISM. That is an attempt to allege that one may be of something different just because on the outside, every one does NOT appear the very same.

    Is not that being the greatest wonder of creation, that while basically we are all alike, but on the surface a bit different. That makes us all as INDIVIDUALS ! Therefore UNIQUE !

    • We have only one human race, that is Homo sapiens. The skin can be different, go in the Sun and you will see.

  2. Chuck Kovacs says:

    To the editor: While your articles are always well thought out, it would be most helpful to have a larger type style. Any consideration is appreciated.

    • Hungarian Free Press says:

      Thanks for your observation. We use a WordPress platform for this site, but I will take a look to see if there is a way to increase the font size across the board, by modifying the WordPress “stylesheet.”

  3. Would rather ask you to increase the contrast on the KMH postings !
    Very very light, hard to see and read !
    Thanks for considering that .

  4. Always admired André. As a fellow trained concert pianist myself, had the pleasure of meeting him back in the 60’ in Philly suburb.
    Wonderful talent, kind person.
    Speedy recovery!

  5. The fact that my post never made it past moderation tell me that my facts couldn’t be refuted and that your answers to my questions went against your goals.

  6. So why have a comment section when you refuse to accept questionable thoughts and theories? You should have a disclaimer that reads: If you post something that we can’t refute we reserve the right to disregard it out of fear.

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