Llyr Williams

Perth Concert Hall

When concerts have been permitted to happen, it has been a bankable certainty that Perth Concert Hall’s Creative Director for Classical Music, James Waters, is among the first promoters to be staging them. So it was more than fortuitous that the easing of restrictions should coincide with the start of Perth’s series of Tuesday lunchtime concerts, and a very thoughtful programme from Welsh pianist Llyr Williams.

He began a remarkable run of recitals at the venue this spring, with Sunday afternoon concerts also restarting next month and the finest pianists in the country all appearing in Perth – Paul Lewis, Clare Hammond, Alasdair Beatson, Joanna MacGregor and Steven Osborne are all on the list.

Oddly, perhaps, the names of Mozart and Haydn are not in the scheduled repertoire to be played by any of them however, so Williams had the two early masters to himself, opening with Haydn’s C Major Sonata and finishing with Mozart’s C Minor Fantasia and Sonata, K475 and K457.

In between the pianist leapt forward in time with French works by Ravel, Debussy and Poulenc and the parallels Williams pointed up were often startling. Most obviously these were in pace, alternating between languid introspection, and lightning-figured articulacy. The speed of his playing of the Rondo of the Haydn was as Presto as is surely possible, but it was all the more startling after the boldly downbeat Andante opening to the concert.

There was also a clear pre-echo of the rippling phrasing beloved of the piano-writing of Debussy in particular, and his Hommage a Haydn incorporates similar shifts of pace within a much briefer piece. It followed Ravel’s Menuet sur le nom de Haydn – much less the technical composition exercise the title suggests and more another of the composer’s breathtakingly lovely tunes.

The jazzy tone of the Debussy continued in two of Poulenc’s Novelettes, moving in key, and bluesiness, from C Major to B flat minor, and possibly alluding to the tonal shift from the Haydn to the Mozart in the arc of the whole programme.

With the Fantasia we returned to the introspection of those first bars of the Haydn, Mozart at his most Beethovian. With precision pedal-work, and haunting pauses, here was Williams integrating the ingredients we had heard earlier into one story. With his balletic hands shaping even the rests in the music, it was a captivating narrative that occupied nearly half of the total recital time.

The first of four of the Tuesday concerts being recorded for future broadcast on by BBC Radio 3, it will be well worth making an appointment to catch.

Keith Bruce

Portrait of Llyr Williams by Hannan Images