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Pianist Llŷr Williams - CD Review, 18th of January, 2024

Today we also meet a Welsh pianist, Llŷr Williams, on his 15th release on Signum Records. I'm referring to the double album Robert Schumann, released on the 12th of January in a recital at London's Wigmore Hall. He is undoubtedly one of the most experienced artists, as demonstrated by the 8 volumes recorded with Franz Schubert, the albums "Wagner without words", "Beethoven unbound", Liszt - Years of Pilgrimage, Mussorgsky - Pictures from an Exhibition. Looking at his discography, we notice this disposition for solo recital, although his career has been shaped since the early 2000s in the presence of prestigious orchestras, most often with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with whom he has also toured the United States. He made his debut at the Proms in 2005 in Robert Schumann's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, notable appearances at the Barbican Arts Centre's Mostly Mozart Festival, the Cheltenham Festival, Verbier, Lucerne's Le Piano Symphonique, Edinburgh and the East Neuk Festival. Llŷr Williams is also highly regarded in the chamber music sphere, often collaborating with Bryn Terfel, Natalie Clein, Tim Hugh, Katarina Nazarova, Jamie Barton, and during the current season with tenor Mark Padmore, violist Rosalind Ventris, baritone Andrei Kymach.

But let's return to his latest recording - a journey that covers, as far as Robert Schumann is concerned, the compositional path from his student years to maturity with its profound disorders from Papillon op.2 to "Vienna Carnival Scenes", dated 1841. Of course, it's repertoire that consistently appears on disc, or in recitals. But each time we discover something new, in the case of artists truly endowed with this gift, instinct, intuition and equally with a profound knowledge of language, of guild secrets, if I may put it this way, which bring an added knowledge, an added expressiveness and address both the spirit and the soul. "An album dedicated to the new generations", says pianist Llŷr Williams in his plea, so we are not surprised by this note of freshness, of intelligence in the rendering of the score, coupled with an obvious delicacy of touch, of melodic contour, subtly highlighted, with a keen attention to detail and dynamic contrasts, emphasizing the playfulness of the Papillon Suite op.2.

"'Robert Schumann's music has been and continues to be a constant source of inspiration in my musical journey,' says Llŷr Williams in an interview. "His way of expressing elaborate narratives and hidden messages through his music as well as his ability to address the deepest human emotions are things that have always fascinated me. With this album, I hope to express my deep admiration for one of my favourite composers to new generations of listeners."

Llŷr Williams, a pianist with a great ability to portray precisely those emotions he mentioned in his interview. In the Humoresque op.20 in B flat major, we notice pianism of infinite poetry, vivid colour, feelings captured in their tumult, but also in tones of great lyrical quality. The virtuosic passages are brilliantly played, with a pathos that instantly captivates, without excluding the narrative quality of the musical text. Of course, our affective memory cannot detach itself from the version that pianist Radu Lupu left us on the disc, it remains as a benchmark, not to be included in a Discography of the Year 2024. Instead Llŷr Williams' version responds to the project's data, joins in value and scope.