Archive for D 894

Llŷr Williams plays Schubert

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on November 13, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve been away from blogging for a few days, so I thought I’d begin the process of catching up with a short review of the concert I went to on Thursday evening (9th November) at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff featuring acclaimed Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams playing music by Franz Schubert. Llŷr Williams recently completed a series of concerts in which he performed all the works for keyboard by Beethoven, and now he has embarking on another journey, this time of Schubert. The concert was recorded and will, I believe, be released commercially.

The first half of the recital consisted of the Sonata in G Major D894 (Op. 78) which was written in 1826, just two years before the composer’s death. Although Schubert was already ill when he wrote this piece it is generally optimistic in tone.    The first and third movements introduce  dance-like elements, and the final movement is a light and breezy Allegretto in the form of a rondo. The piece is tempestuous in places but  generally resolves into a more tranquil mood. It’s a well-balanced and  enjoyable piece, wonderfully played.

To close the first half we had three transcriptions for solo piano by Franz Liszt of Schubert songs:  Ständchen, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, and Ave Maria.  The last of these (Ellens Gesang III) is probably the most famous as a song but also the least successful as a solo piano piece. On the other hand, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, works well. I’m not a huge fan of Liszt and although it was interesting to hear these works in this form I much prefer them sung by a human voice with a piano accompaniment.

After the interval  wine break we had a later Piano Sonata (in C Minor D 958), written during the last year of Schubert’s life. In four movements like the piece we heard in the first half, this piece has a much greater depth and sense of drama to it (at least to my ears), at least partly because it is clearly influenced in structure and tonality by Beethoven. Perhaps it was for that reason that this work inspired Llŷr Williams to a performance of great intensity as well as virtuosity, especially in the final Allegro movement which is extremely agitated, even frenzied. As he introduced the piece, Llŷr Williams spoke of this as being like a `dance of death’. Schubert probably knew he was dying when he wrote this piece, but it’s not as bleak as some of his other late works.  It seems to me to be characterised by a sense of determination,  to get as much done as possible before his life came to an end.

Schubert died before his 32nd birthday, but he was astonishingly prolific, especially towards the end of his life, and he left a huge legacy of wonderful music. I’m very much looking forward to the next concert in this series of explorations of his piano music.