Llyr Williams at QEH London
The welsh pianist Llyr Williams opened the International Piano Series at the recently re opened Queen Elisabeth Hall on the South Bank in London .
A musician’s programme of Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms as befits a former BBC New Generation artist and a recipient of the Borlotti- Buitoni award.
I was very pleased to be able to listen live to this pianist who has been performing all the Beethoven Sonatas in a series at the Wigmore Hall.
Unfortunately there is not much information about his formation in the programme or about any of the other artists in the series .
As is the norm these days which seems to be more about recent events than the actual birth and nurturing of the talent that has brought them to the fore !
Marketing it is called !
(Thanks to Google I learn that he had an early taste for opera and a love for Wagner at the age of ten.He got a first class degree from Oxford Queen’s College at 22 and did postgraduate work at the RAM with Michael Dussek,Julius Drake,Hamish Milne and Irina Zaritskaya)
Linn Rothstein with CA
However Linn Rothstein who had invited me had told me that he studied at the Royal Academy in London and studied to be an accompanist .This was with only the programme information (cost 4 pounds) before referring to the “master” Google
Unable to ascertain for certain but as music speaks louder than words it seemed obviously the case as exemplified by the wondrous sounds and extraordinary sense of balance which was combined to a musicality that left no doubt as to his intentions.
Let us not forget the great singing tradition in Wales .
Adelina Patti had a castle there and Dame Gwyneth Jones and Margaret Price wanted to turn it into a National Singing Academy.
Something that Dame Gwyneth learnt when singing in our theatre in Rome that the Arts Council had turned the idea down.
I remember the coaching from John Streets sharing lessons with Graham Johnson and being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of sound that was possible from the piano to he who listens!
In fact if I had to say who can make the piano sing today more than any other I would not hesitate in saying Graham Johnson and Menahem Pressler.
I often say to young pianists go and listen to Graham and learn how to make the piano sing!
It was even more evident in the single encore offered of the Schubert G flat Impromptu after a long and musically difficult programme .
The magical way in which he could make the melody sing out over a gently murmuring accompaniment reminded me of Gerald Moore playing An Di Musik at his farewell concert.
With Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,Victoria de los Angeles and Dietrich Fischer Diescau looking on he captured a public that had been overwhelmed by an evening of sublime music making .
”Am I too loud” he might very well have asked .
Never !Would be the only answer possible as indeed was the case tonight.
The introduction in the programme too showed a true musical mind .
One that had thought of the recital as a voyage of discovery.From the Beethoven 32 variations based on an eight bar harmonic progression similar to the Baroque chaconne form .To the Brahms Variations in D minor obviously inspired by the great Bach Chaconne in the same key.
These two works as an introduction to two important works :that of Schumann Humoreke op 20 and Brahms Sonata in F minor op 5 .
An imposing opening to the Beethoven as you might expect from someone who was signing after the concert his 12 CD set under the title of Beethoven Unbound.
Some really beautiful detail but somehow the energy behind the notes was missing.
The extraodinary thing about Gilels and Annie Fischer’s performance of this work was the driving energy from the first to the last note .
Here was some extremely beautiful playing but the savage almost animal like Beethoven was missing which left us with a series of episodes where the underlying pulse was missing.
The Schumann rarely have I heard the opening so beautifully played .
The melody projected to perfection.
But when it came to the more articulated sections that make such a telling contrast between Florestan and Eusebius the rhythmic energy and articulation became part of a wash of musical sound.
The great sounds of the piano from which emerge the most heartrending melodic invention was not possible when the whole landscape was one of such beauty.
It became a little boring.
We were in the end yearning for a change of scenery.
It was the same in the Brahms .
A quite remarkable performance but I remember that of Kempff in this very hall where the eruptions of sound were contrasted with the most liquid of cantabiles.
A true orchestra in his hands
Here there were some wonderful moments especially in the slow movement that was a model of perfection for subtlety of balance and projection of melodic line of pure beauty .But the great passionate finale of this movement did not take our breath away as it surely should .
The Brahms variations after the second movement of the String Sextet op 18 n.1 was written as a present for Clara and was given perhaps the most satisfying performance of the evening ………….
…………….that is until we struck gold with Schubert.
It is without doubt that the Welsh have music in their blood and soul.
It is evident when they speak ,sing or as tonight play an instrument.
A remarkable lesson of musicianship indeed in this era where the modern day pianos are used to being beaten to death instead of being caressed and truly loved
P.S. Another fine young Welsh pianist Luke Jones writes :
Luke Jones He lives just a stone’s throw away from my house in Wrexham! Small world it is.
He studied as a youth with a local teacher called Lottie Williams-Parry and was a student at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, he went to study at Oxford University in Music whilst taking lessons at RAM. I believe he studied with Hamish Milne whilst a student there. He worked a great deal for Live Music Now and I think YCAT in the early 2000s. I believe he also studied a bit with Julius Drake and Irina Zaritskaya and a few other names that escape me.
His mother and father are also very keen on music and I understand took him to many concerts as a child. I recall he mentioned to me once he has a copy of Chopin Polonaises signed by Sviatoslav Richter.