Liszt: Excerpts from Annees de pelerinage, deuxieme annee: Italie S161
What people are saying
"Williams’s expansiveness with the great Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude is balanced by the effortless manner in which he keeps it on the move. A superior album which is highly recommended." The Scotsman
"In Bénédiction de Dieu he takes us into a different and majestic world. Those long melodic lines seem to lift and swell within vast surrounding spaces" BBC Music Magazine, January 2013
Release date:30th Jul 2012
Pelerinage highlights from Wales’s pre-eminent pianist.
Those familiar with the lively acoustic of the (audibly empty) Wyastone Concert Hall will know what kind of piano sound to expect. Llyr Williams’s instrument is a highly responsive thoroughbred. Perhaps it is the microphone placement that gives the upper treble its penetrating tone at ff just that it gives the impression, at some dynamic levels, that the hammer felts need pricking.
What is unexpected – and rather unusual – is the way in which Williams handles Liszt in this programme of masterworks which features what might be described as the best bits from the Deuxieme annee and Supplément, with ‘Benediction de Dieu’ and Liebestod as substantial bonuses. The music contains some of his most demanding writing. Williams does not have the same technical wizardry as a Hamelin, Berezovsky or Volodos (few have), the kind that leaves you open-mouthed and shaking your head in wonder. Instead of heady bravura, with more deliberate tempi Williams deconstructs the music, as it were, shows you every nut and bolt, ensures every note is given its due weight and importance (eg the opening pages of ‘Benediction’) and then assembles everything into performances of overwhelming power that often send a tingle up the spine. For Williams, less is more. He produces a magnificent sonority at the great climaxes to the ‘Dante Sonata’, Liebestod and ‘Benediction’, though in the latter two some passages are dangerously drawn-out and risk losing the musical line. Williams may be no Cziffra but offers another view of Liszt that is as valid as it is compelling.
Gramophone, Jeremy Nicholas
The musical demands presented by any Liszt programme are so wide-ranging that nor even a pianist of Llyr Williams’s class will necessarily succeed in meeting all of them, all of the time. By the same token, there will be plentiful areas that do succeed, and brilliantly.
Williams is entirely on terms with the virtuoso requirements of the Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli, even if he doesn’t quite match Stephen Hough’s astonishing precision and velocity, and the middle section sings with appealing soulfulness. Bur a rather prosaic approach to the Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa misses the music’s roguish streak. And while Williams responds to the expressive warmth of the Petrarch Sonnets with much loveliness, his way of lingering on a phrase surely eddies the music’s flow a touch more than it needs, or than he intends. This approach to expressive nuance persists in an otherwise formidable performance of the Dante Sonata.
In Bénédiction de Dieu he takes us into a different and majestic world. Those long melodic lines seem to lift and swell within vast surrounding spaces (shades of the formidable Claudio Arrau are in evidence here); and Williams’s way with the opening accompanying figuration – emphasising the underlying arpeggios rather than the slow-motion trill above them – sounds beautifully right. The intricate part-writing of Liszt’s transcription from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, too, comes across with a stellar combination of absolute clarity and gorgeous piano sound.
Performance and Recording
BBC Music Magazine, Malcoim Hayes
The core of Llyr Williams’ recital disc is a selection of five pieces from the second, Italian, book of Liszt’s Annees de Pelerinage – the little Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa and the three Petrarch Sonnets, leading up to the great, climactic Dante Sonata. As he also showed in his Edinburgh festival recital last week, Williams is a superb Liszt interpreter, never content to use even the most technically demanding music as just a vehicle for flashy display, but always looking beneath the elaborate surfaces for deeper rigour and meaning. That doesn’t mean he ever understates the music’s sense of theatre or misjudges its sense of scale, though; there’s a tremendous power and intensity to his Dante Sonata that’s maintained from the taut opening phrases to the very final bars. He prefaces his sequence with the Tarentella that ends Venezia e Napoli, Liszt’s supplement to the Italian Annee, and adds the Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude and the transcription of the Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde as mighty, powerfully wrought postscripts.
With Welsh master pianist Llyr Williams appearing at the Edinburgh International Festival on August 30 with a stupendous all-Liszt programme culminating in the great B minor Sonata, to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, the timing of his new Liszt CD on Signum could hardly be better. I’ve been banging on for years about Williams’s prowess as a Beethovenian, but he is no less formidable a Lisztian. If there is flamboyance here, it’s in the music: Williams is too serious and concentrated for nonsense. His playing of the Petrarch Sonnets is poetry although tempered with the Williams steel. His Tarantella (which he’ll play in Edinburgh) is a miracle of speed and light, while his Dante Sonata is powerfully dramatic and Isolde’s Liebestod pulses inexorably to the climax. Williams’s expansiveness with the great Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude is balanced by the effortless manner in which he keeps it on the move. A superior album which is highly recommended. Do not miss the Queen’s Hall recital at the end of the month/
The Scotsman, Michael Tumelty
- Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli, Supplement to Annees de pelerinage S161 – Franz Liszt – 8.51
- Annees de pelerinage, deuxieme annee: Italie S161: No.3: Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa – Franz Liszt – 3.01
- Annees de pelerinage, deuxieme annee: Italie S161: No.4: Sonetto 47 del Petrarca – Franz Liszt – 5.35
- Annees de pelerinage, deuxieme annee: Italie S161: No.5: Sonetto 104 del Petrarca – Franz Liszt – 6.38
- Annees de pelerinage, deuxieme annee: Italie S161: No.6: Sonetto 123 del Petrarca – Franz Liszt – 7.23
- Annees de pelerinage, deuxieme annee: Italie S161: No.7: Apres une lecture du Dante, fantasia quasi sonata – Franz Liszt – 17.26
- Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude from Harmonies poetiques et religieuses S173 – Franz Liszt – 18.21
- Isolden’s Liebestod S447 Final scene from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde – Franz Liszt – 7.46