Andre Watsts was only 22 when he recored this Brhams Second Cto. with Bernstein, and althoughhe possesses reserves of technique -- one never feels that the thorny keyboard writing overwhelms him -- he hasn't got much to say. There aren't many ideas, and after a while I lost interest, beyond admiring what a young virtuoso can do (I very well remember his TV debut on one of Bernstein's YOung Person's Concerts). Sadly, Watts never grew very much artisticaly. I heard him preform the same concerto in Carnegie Hall last year under Eschenbach with the Philadelphia Orch., and Watts seemed rather faceless then. It's a shame that Bernstein, who always had a deep sympathy for Brahms, didn't find a partner in his HY Phil. years to equal his vivid, imaginative accompaniment.
On his own LB gives us the Haydn Variations, and it's a breath of fresh air compared to the traditional german approach, which tends to be pompous and even churchy. Bernstein's interpretation is fresh and quick in its pacing, and the usual wide-ranging sonics favored by Columbia's engineers adds to the sweep of the music.