Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Williams’ Beethoven sonata cycle “a revelation.”

United KingdomUnited Kingdom The Beethoven Concert Series at Greyfriars Kirk (2) – Llŷr Williams (piano), Greyfriars Kirk, 16.8.2011 (SRT)

Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op 10, No. 1 in C minor
Piano Sonata Op 10, No. 2 in F
Piano Sonata Op 10, No. 3 in D

Llŷr Williams’ Beethoven cycle continues with the Opus 10 trilogy and it’s a revelation to hear all three of them together in the same concert. The minor key is a powerful influence over the set, not just in the C minor No. 1 but also in the stunning D minor slow movement of No. 3, but in Williams’ hands the mood was never allowed to stultify but ebbed and flowed in accordance with his vision of the work. In No. 1, for example, the severity of the opening melted effortlessly into the restless beauty of the second subject and the slow movement carried expression of beautiful restraint. His playing was so compelling because of its sense of momentum which was never allowed to run away: the deceptively simple lines of No. 2, for example, hinted at profound depths beneath while allowing for showmanship in the witty, folk-like finale.

There was an altogether greater sense of scale for No. 3, however. The modulation from the major first subject to the minor second, for example, felt grand and significant but extremely natural at the same time. The overpowering intensity of the slow movement was paced to perfection to express the grandeur of its tragedy, while its major key moments spoke of calmly restrained power. The Minuet, following on so quickly, felt like an attempt to resolve the tension peacefully. If the finale didn’t quite hold up to the weight of its predecessors until its closing passages, there was never any doubt that this was muscular piano playing with a great sense of scope and a keen ear for architecture.

Greyfriars’ Beethoven cycle runs until Friday 26th August. Tickets can be booked at www.edfringe.com or are available at the door.

Simon Thompson