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WORKS: Davidsbündlertänze; Fantasie in C; Geistervariationen
PERFORMER: Cordelia Williams (piano)


Cordelia Williams is among the rising stars in Britain’s pianistic firmament, with a string of glowing testimonials and critical plaudits fit to disturb the sleep of lesser artists. Such encomiums, however, are a mixed blessing, often arousing in newcoming reviewers an uneasy blend of anticipation and scepticism. I remember the comment of one critic on the long-awaited debut in America of the fabled Paderewski in 1891. ‘He’s good,’ said the critic, ‘ – but he’s no Paderewski.’ On the evidence of this release, I would say something similar about Cordelia Williams, whose musicality, intelligence and pianistic command are evident here from the start (in some cases, to my ears, rather too evident).


Many, in the nature of things, will disagree, but I feel a want of true harmony between intellect and instinct – an exaggerated telegraphing of analytical perceptions at the cost of spontaneity, starting, almost at once, with the exceptionally long and undifferentiated gaps between the individual dances in the Davidsbündlertänze, and continuing with the mannered punching out of accents, which impedes rather than enhances the forward movement. The rubato sounds often contrived and didactic rather than natural, and, ironically, the feeling of dance is generally elusive, owing largely to rhythmic repetitiousness and a lack of that pregnant asymmetry that Schumann loved to mine – never more so than in the C major Fantasy. Yet here again, subdivisions – of beats, bars and phrases – are often relentlessly metrical, with little hint of the latent rhythms and variety of phrasing on which musical movement depends. Jeremy Siepmann