Gilmore Free-Day Comes to Kalamazoo

By Emily Kotz

Kalamazoo College welcomed Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams to perform last Tuesday in Stetson Chapel as part of the Gilmore International Piano Festival’s free day at the College.

The festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary, so far holding five such similar concerts all in the chapel at 2:00 p.m. In his third performance of the festival, Williams continued to perform a collection of Beethoven Sonatas with paramount talent, shining through each piece’s technical difficulties with effortless ability.

The selected program included Beethoven’s famous “Funeral March,” sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90, and sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111. Each piece exemplified Williams’ mastery of Beethoven’s swift thematic changes and explosive finger patterns imbedded within each movement.

The extreme nature of Beethoven’s work, the sweeping range of intense highs and lows, fill his sonatas to their core. Williams began the program with the “Funeral March,” a reflection of Beethoven’s abrupt and dynamic compositional methods, and so requiring an extreme sense of dexterity to grapple with and play.

Williams’ transitions between Beethoven’s musical mood swings with succinct eloquence in both sound and stamina. His hands work total control over the high tempos and chilling tumult of notes to then transition smoothly into the grandeur, deep, and echoing melodies.

Sonata No. 27 offers different challenges, none of which Williams had doubt over. A call and response narrative is played between the two hands, comparing the two main themes of the piece in individual style. Translated from German, the piece’s title comes to be, “with liveliness and with feeling and expression throughout,” and Williams portrays this to the greatest effect possible. Harsh, resounding chords are contrasted to light crystal clean touches given to the shrill high notes.  Williams approaches the keyboard with an equal mixture of toughness yet sensitivity, able to draw out the two opposing aspects of the piece with force and flowing style.

Positioning Sonata No. 32 as his last piece, Williams displayed his virtuosity in commanding Beethoven’s work. The sonata is full-bodied, all encompassing work, leaving nothing out to mesmerize the audience in awe of its both simple and complex themes and phrases.

And William’s did just that, making the audience become completely immersed in the differing subtle voices arranged in the work. Williams expert use of the foot petals added to the vastness of the arrangement, magnifying each somber or angelic chord. Lifted out of their pews, the rose to give Williams a standing ovation after the final note was allowed to float off into infinity.

This concert being a prime example, it has been another successful year for the praised Gilmore Festival.

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