William Williams

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COMPOSERS: William Williams
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Instrumental Music (complete): Trio Sonatas, Op. 1; Duet in F; Recorder Sonata in D minor
PERFORMER: Camerata Köln
CATALOGUE NO: 999 813-2
Williams, born probably in 1675, left little more than these six trio sonatas, a solo and a duet for recorders when he died in 1701. Three sonatas are for two recorders and continuo, though ‘if writ three notes lower, [they] will go on the Violins’ – an astute sales pitch. The most striking piece is ‘in immitation [sic] of Birds’, recorders pausing for lengthy avian cadenzas during the first Allegro. Camerata Köln start with this, opting for cello continuo, rather assertive against the purity of the recorder tone; viola da gamba works better in the other recorder pieces. The other three sonatas are for violins (similarly transposable, but upwards, for recorders), and played here with some moments of subtle expressive tremolo within otherwise clean, uncomplicated lines.

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Williams proves to have a distinctive voice, including the Purcellian trait of unexpected changes of harmonic direction – a sign not of indecision but of a fertile imagination. Textures too are arresting, with harpsichord or organ alone providing the bass at times so that cello/gamba entries emphasise inventive imitations with the parts above.

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On the evidence presented here of virtually his complete oeuvre in under 50 minutes, Williams’s obscurity is due to his untimely death rather than any lack of invention. George Pratt