05 Schumann Llyr WilliamsRobert Schumann – Piano Works
Llŷr Williams
Signum Classics SIGCD756 (signumrecords.com)

The name Llŷr Williams may not be an overly familiar one, but since his graduation from the Royal Academy of music, this 48-year-old pianist has quietly carved out a name for himself as a soloist, accompanist and chamber musician. Born in North Wales in 1976, he studied music at Queen’s College, Oxford before pursuing further studies at the RAM from 2003 to 2005. His recent recordings have included the complete sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert; he now turns his attention to the music of Schumann on this 2CD set.

The first disc opens with the renowned Fantasie in C Major Op.17, long regarded as one of Schumann’s greatest works. Willliams’ approach is suitably expansive and lyrical, at no time losing control of the shifting parameters within. Papillons, from 1831 is a charming set of 12 kaleidoscopic miniatures. Based on a novel by Jean Paul Richter and intended to represent a masked ball, the successive dance movements flow by in quick succession. Williams delivers an elegant and polished performance, adroitly capturing the ever-contrasting moods. Concluding the first disc is the six-movement Humoresque Op.20 from 1839, a score that has possibly never earned the reputation it deserves.

Williams continues to demonstrate a real affinity for this archly Romantic repertoire in the famed Davidsbündlertanze Op.6 which opens the second disc. The movements here are not true dances, but character pieces aptly showcasing the dualistic nature of Schumann’s personality. The four reflective Nachtstücke Op.23 were composed during a particularly stressful time in the composer’s life owing to the imminent death of his older brother. In contrast is the jovial Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op.26, a wonderful depiction of a Viennese carnival which Williams performs with much bravado, bringing the set to a most satisfying conclusion.

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