Review: Llyr Williams – Piano , Snape Proms, Snape Maltings, August 12

A combination of Beethoven, Liszt and one of the most talented and interesting pianists performing today might have been expected to attract a bigger audience but those who made the effort were treated to an evening of dynamic and exciting piano playing.

Beethoven’s early G major sonata op 14/2 has an easy charm which can hide the quality and polish of its construction. Llyw Williams’ crisp articulation and dexterity in the rhythmic clashes of the first movement’s development and his sustained melodic line in the Andante ensured an enjoyable and satisfying performance.

Six years on from op14, the composer was moving into previously unexplored territory with his expansive and virtuosic Waldstein sonata. Williams did not break speed records in the opening Allegro and the semiquaver runs gained in clarity and impact. There were moments of intense introspection in the slow movement and the finale made its first gentle appearance only to gather momentum towards the final headlong pages which Williams delivered with power and elan.

The second half contained piano transcriptions by Liszt from popular operas of the day and which enabled the works to find an audience beyond those able to attend the opera-house. The famous quartet from Rigoletto is full of Liszt’s trademark bravura and the Miserere Chorus from Il Trovatore becomes a sombre poem of death. Both pieces received exemplary performances from Williams, the Rigoletto quartet especially exhilarating.

Wagner was represented by the Chorus and March and ‘Oh Star of eve’ from Tannhauser, in which Liszt and Williams combined with spectacular success towards recreating the original orchestral palette. The concluding work, indeed the ultimate finale – Isolde’s Liebestod – was played with passion and outstanding clarity, the dense chromaticism and intricate instrumental detail glowing under the pianist’s fingers. Everything had been said and although encores seem to be a regular feature of concerts now, a short piano work by Wagner seemed particularly inapt. But it could not detract from an evening of gripping, brilliant piano playing. You ought to have been there.

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Gareth Jones

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