The musical demands presented by any Liszt programme are so wide‑ranging that not even a pianist of Llyˆr Williams’s class will necessarily succeed in meeting all of them, all of the time. By the same token, there will be plentiful areas that do succeed, and brilliantly.
Williams is entirely on terms with the virtuoso requirements of the Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli, even if he doesn’t quite match Stephen Hough’s astonishing precision and velocity, and the middle section sings with appealing soulfulness. But a rather prosaic approach to the Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa misses the music’s roguish streak. And while Williams responds to the expressive warmth of the Petrarch Sonnets with much loveliness, his way of lingering on a phrase surely eddies the music’s flow a touch more than it needs, or than he intends. This approach to expressive nuance persists in an otherwise formidable performance of the Dante Sonata.
In Bénédiction de Dieu he takes us into a different and majestic world. Those long melodic lines seem to lift and swell within vast surrounding spaces (shades of the formidable Claudio Arrau are in evidence here); and Williams’s way with the opening accompanying figuration – emphasising the underlying arpeggios rather than the slow-motion trill above them – sounds beautifully right. The intricate part-writing of Liszt’s transcription from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, too, comes across with a stellar combination of absolute clarity and gorgeous piano sound.