(bNew York, 3 Feb 1927; d Utting am Ammersee, 16 July 1986). American soprano. She studied at the Eastman School of Music and privately with Elisabeth Schumann, and made her début in 1951 at Graz as Desdemona. In 1955 she was engaged at Frankfurt; during her first season she sang 12 new roles, including Countess Almaviva, Pamina, Elisabeth (Tannhäuser), Leonora (La forza del destino), Aida and Tatyana. In 1957–8 she sang Fiordiligi, Elisabeth de Valois and the Marschallin, in which role she made her Covent Garden (1958) and Glyndebourne (1960) débuts. She appeared regularly in London, where she was admired as Ellen Orford, an unforgettably intense Sieglinde, Eva, and, with the Munich company in 1972, Ariadne and the Countess in Capriccio. Her Munich association began in 1958, when she sang Countess Almaviva at the reopening of the Cuvilliéstheater; in 1963 she sang Eva at the inauguration of the rebuilt Nationaltheater, a performance preserved on disc. Watson made guest appearances in Vienna, Berlin, Italy and the USA, where she sang her first Arabella in New Orleans in 1969. The warmth and musicality of her singing and her sincerity illumine her portrait of Ellen Orford in Britten’s own recording of Peter Grimes.
G.Rothon: ‘Claire Watson’, Opera, xxi (1970), 1004
L. Rasponi: ‘Claire Watson’, The Last Prima Donnas (New York, 1982), 394–403
HAROLD ROSENTHAL/ALAN BLYTH
(b London, c1556; d London, bur. 26 Sept 1592). English poet, and an important translator and adaptor of Latin, French and Italian verse. There is no record of his university education, but he often described himself as I.V. Studioso (proficient in both laws, i.e. canon and civil). As a youth he travelled widely in France and Italy, and after his return associated with many of the rich and famous, including Sir Francis Walsingham and his son-in-law Sir Philip Sidney, both of whom were eulogised by Watson in his madrigal verse. He is also recorded as having come to the defence of the playwright Christopher Marlowe in a street brawl, killing Marlowe’s assailant. Watson’s verse in Latin and English was highly praised by contemporary critics. His first published volume was the Hekatompathia (London, 1582), the first set of connected love-poems in English and of importance for the development of the English sonnet form. His contemporary reputation rested mainly on this and on his Latin Amyntas (1585). He wrote the poem for Byrd’s broadside A gratification unto Master John Case printed by Este in 1589, and the next year issued The first sett of Italian madrigalls Englished, not to the sense of the originall dittie, but after the affection of the noate (ed. in MB, forthcoming), containing 23 madrigals by Marenzio, three by older Italians and two, specially written in the Italian style, by Byrd. This anthology is important not only for making the madrigals available in English, but for Watson’s poetic method: the words reflect the spirit of the originals, but hardly ever the literal meaning; instead new lyrics are provided, designed to fit the figuration, phrase and affective structure of the music so closely that the madrigalist’s art is displayed fully. There is no doubt that Watson’s collection provided models for the composers of the English Madrigal School, as well as much of the subject matter for the writers. Five of Watson’s lyrics were subsequently reset by English composers. Kerman has suggested that some texts in Byrd’s Psalmes, Sonets & Songs (1588) may be by Watson.
E.H.Fellowes: English Madrigal Verse, 1588–1632 (Oxford, 1920, rev., enlarged 3/1967 by F.W. Sternfeld and D. Greer)
L. Macy: ‘The Due Decorum Kept: Elizabethan Translation and the Madrigals Englished of Nicholas Yonge and Thomas Watson’, JMR, xvii (1997), 1–21
Watson, William D(avid)
(b London, 6 Oct 1930). English bowmaker. He began his career in 1945 serving a six-year apprenticeship with W.E. Hill & Sons in London, working under Retford. After a two-year absence for national service, he returned to work there until 1962. In February of that year he left to work on his own, moving to Denham, Buckinghamshire, in October 1963. Watson’s bows are cleanly and precisely made, the sticks generally being stronger than most, though without extra weight. Watson is also well known as a restorer of fine old bows.
(b Nuremberg, 20 June 1946). American pianist. His first teacher was his Hungarian mother, who had married an African-American soldier. He studied with Genia Robiner, Doris Bawden and Clement Petrillo at the Philadelphia Musical Academy. At the age of nine he played at a Philadelphia Orchestra children's concert (Haydn's Concerto in D). He made several more appearances in Philadelphia, but the turning-point was in January 1963, when he played Liszt's First Piano Concerto with Leonard Bernstein at a New York PO children's concert, and again at a regular subscription concert. He became instantly famous and second only to Cliburn as a box-office attraction among the younger American instrumentalists. In 1966 he made his European debut with the LSO, and then made a world tour in 1967 under the auspices of the US State Department. While continuing his career he studied with Leon Fleisher (at the Peabody Conservatory sporadically between 1963 and 1972, then privately until 1974); for sheer facility he was unsurpassed and, with Fleisher's help, his musicianship began to match his technique. In 1973 he made another State Department tour, to the USSR, as soloist with the San Francisco SO; that year he taught for the first time, at the Berkshire Music Center. In November 1976 he appeared in the first live nationwide television broadcast of a solo recital in the USA. In 1988, the 25th anniversary of his début as soloist with the New York PO was celebrated in a concert with the orchestra in which Watts performed Liszt's First Concerto, Beethoven's Second and Rachmaninoff's Second in a live nationwide broadcast. Watts's recital repertory ranges from Haydn to Debussy; his concerto repertory, centred on the late Romantics, includes works by Rimsky-Korsakov and MacDowell. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by Yale University (1973) and Albright College (1975); in 1988 he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize. Among his recordings are concertos by Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninoff and MacDowell.