Llŷr Williams

Upper Chapel, Sheffield
Friday 21 October 2022, 7.00pm

£14 Disabled / UC and PIP recipients
£5 Under 35s & Students

Past Event

MOZART Fantasia in C Minor K475 (13’)
R SCHUMANN Fantasy in C Op.17 (30’)
RACHMANINOV Variations on a Theme of Corelli (19’)
LISZT Légende No.1: ‘St François d’Assise: la prédication aux oiseaux’ (10’)
LISZT Mephisto Waltz No.1 (11’) 

Llŷr Williams is known and loved by television and radio audiences the world over for his role as pianist in the finals of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. In this solo recital, Llŷr brings together some of the most captivating works for piano. The endlessly inventive fantasies of Mozart and Schumann are a prelude to Rachmaninov’s set of Variations that take us deep into the heart of the piano. Llŷr’s recital ends with works by the master of pianistic virtuosity, Franz Liszt, one a work of profound religious sentiment followed by a second diabolical dance.  

MOZART Amadeus, Fantasia in C minor K475

Mozart completed his Fantasia in C minor on 20 May 1785 and it was published in December 1785 (in tandem with the Piano Sonata in C minor K457) with a dedication to Therese von Trattner (1758–96), one of Mozart’s favourite pupils. The Fantasia shows Mozart at his most audacious and the Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein wrote that the work ‘gives us the truest picture of Mozart’s mighty powers of improvisation – his ability to indulge in the greatest freedom and boldness of imagination, the most extreme contrast of ideas, the most uninhibited variety of lyric and virtuoso elements.’ This extraordinary work combines tragic grandeur with a relish for extreme chromaticism and bravura, alongside moments of great tenderness.

© Nigel Simeone

SCHUMANN Robert, Fantasy in C Op.17

In December 1836, Robert Schumann finished a ‘Sonata for Beethoven’ but revised it in 1838 and gave it the new title Fantasie. It was published in 1839 with a dedication to Franz Liszt. Schumann marks the first movement to be played with ‘imagination and passion’. It is a highly original reinvention of sonata form, with unconventional key relationships and structural innovations, notably the interlude placed at the moment when the recapitulation might be expected to arrive. The second movement depicts Schumann’s imaginary army of Davidsbündler marching against the Philistines. Dominated by obsessive dotted rhythms, this colourful movement ends with a vertiginous coda. The third movement is a complete contrast. It is poetic, restrained, and noble – and surely full of quiet longing for Clara. When Clara first received a copy of the Fantasie she wrote to Schumann that it made her ‘half ill with rapture.’ Just over a year later, on 12 September 1840, they were finally able to marry. Liszt was immensely proud of the dedication, considering the Fantasie to be among the greatest of Schumann’s piano works, but he never performed it in public. Only with the next generation of pianists – many of them pupils of Liszt and Clara Schumann – did the Fantasie take its rightful place as a pinnacle of the Romantic piano repertoire.

© Nigel Simeone

RACHMANINOV Sergei, Variations on a Theme of Corelli

Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme by Corelli have a singular place in the composer’s output as the only major work for solo piano that he composed after leaving Russia in 1917. The title is slightly misleading since these are variations on La Folia, an ancient tune that was used by Corelli – as well as by Lully and Vivaldi among others – but certainly wasn’t composed by him. This set of twenty variations (with an Intermezzo between the 13th and 14th variations) was composed in Switzerland and the manuscript is dated 19 June 1931. Rachmaninov himself gave the first performance in Montreal on 12 October 1931. Dedicated to his friend Fritz Kreisler, the variations show Rachmaninov at his most concentrated and ingenious.

© Nigel Simeone

LISZT Franz, Légende No.1: St François d’Assise: la prédication aux oiseaux

In 1862–3, Liszt composed two Legends which he dedicated to his daughter, Cosima von Bülow (later Cosima Wagner). The first legend is a brilliantly evocative musical depiction of St Francis of Assisi praying to the birds. Liszt’s inspiration came not only from religious texts but also from the birds he observed on Monte Mario near Rome, while he was on a retreat – an occasion when he was visited by Pope Pius IX who may have been given a private performance of the piece. Liszt first played it in public at a concert in Budapest on 29 August 1865.

© Nigel Simeone

LISZT Franz, Mephisto Waltz No.1

Liszt composed the Mephisto Waltz No.1 in about 1859, at the same time as a version for orchestra. It was dedicated to Carl Tausig, the Polish virtuoso who was considered Liszt’s most gifted pupil, still in his teens at the time. As well as being a dazzling concert waltz that calls on all a pianist’s technical resources, it is also a programmatic work derived from the 1836 Faust by Nikolaus Lenau (indebted to Goethe, and to Byron). Liszt quotes part of Lenau’s preface in the score to explain the story, which is closely mirrored by the music: A wedding feast is in progress with music and dancing. After encouraging Faust to join the festivities, Mephistopheles snatches a violin and draws seductive sounds from it. Faust whirls about with a beautiful woman in a wild dance, out of the hall and into the woods as a nightingale warbles its song.

© Nigel Simeone