Sonata in B flat, D960
24 Preludes, Op.28
Llŷr Williams (piano)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 26 April, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Wales-born Llŷr Williams was born in 1976 and is making a name for himself. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2000 and he has since appeared at the Edinburgh Festival and as an accompanist at the Cardiff Singer of the World. Although Williams chose two big works for this Wigmore Hall recital, it was also rather short measure; and while I don’t subscribe to the bow-tie-and-tails school of concert attire, I do feel that Williams’s rather shabby-looking check-shirt and trousers was unacceptably sloppy dress.
The opening of the Schubert made it immediately obvious that Williams was using far too much sustaining pedal and that the left-hand trills lacked any sense of menace or foreboding. The second subject was subdued and lacked interest. He observed the exposition repeat, but didn’t use it to vary his approach. In the development the final climax was under-powered and the trills prior to the recapitulation were too literal. Throughout the movement Williams failed to vary his tone and dynamics, so the sound was rich but monochrome and the overall effect one-dimensional.
The Andante sostenuto was marginally too slow and too evenly voiced, and the second subject failed to sing. In the agitated central section the left-hand lacked strength and was ill-defined, the sound too smooth; the sense of imminent destruction that Kovacevich conveyed a few months ago in the Royal Festival Hall entirely missing. There was no staccato or rhythmic variation in the Scherzo and the phrasing in the trio came close to being twee. William’s approach to the last movement was regrettably predictable: a moderate tempo, no sense of rhythmic finesse, limited tonal and dynamic variety and no memorable phrasing.
In the Chopin the tempos for the opening four Preludes were too slow, and there was some self-conscious phrasing and uneven fingerwork. In the eighth and ninth Preludes, Williams produced a dark and imposing atmosphere, but the over-use of the pedal, a lack of definition in the right-hand in No.8 and a lack of dynamic variation in No.9, again made the pieces seem one-dimensional. The famous No.15 – ‘Raindrop’ – was too loud and lacked any sense of delicacy or fantasy, and although Williams was ferociously fast in No.16 there was no sense of dynamic rise and fall. In the last eight Preludes my written observances are full of responses such as ‘unsubtle’, ‘no flow’, ‘over-pedalled’, ‘too loud’, and ‘no variety of expression’.
Clearly Williams is a thoughtful and serious performer, but at present his tone is too even and his expressive range limited. He gave two encores, by Poulenc and Gabrilowitsch, which contained the best playing of the evening. The Poulenc, a Pastorale, was elegant and transparent, and the outrageous Caprice-Burlesque of Ossip Gabrilowitsch was despatched with considerable virtuosity and humour.