Schubert: Impromptus, D899 & D935; 17 Ländler, D366
Cordelia Williams was winner of the piano section in the 2006 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, and, on the evidence of this new recording, it’s not hard to understand her success. Her playing has a warmth and finely judged flexibility that are immediately attractive. Williams captures the yearning nature of Schubert’s first Impromptu – a kind of sublimated march – very well, and manages to invest the melody of the third piece from the same collection, in the ‘soft’ key of G flat major, with just the right vocal quality. There are occasions, however, where the music seems to need a touch more drama and intensity than Williams provides. The forceful minor-mode episode of the second Impromptu is a case in point, and so too is its coda, where, as the pace accelerates, the music should appear to spiral out of control, to fetch up unexpectedly in the minor. In both instances the playing is a little on the careful side, and a slightly more urgent tempo for the piece as a whole might have helped.
There’s an air of cautiousness, too, in the trio section of the last of the D899 Impromptus, where the music again turns to the minor, and the melody, with its pulsating accompaniment, repeatedly rises to an impassioned climax. But these are small points, and it’s the spontaneity of the performances, as well as the beauty of the piano tone that linger in the mind. The series of Ländler D366 makes a welcome bonus.