Piano virtuoso Llyr Williams headlines at festival

Published on 4 October, 2021

World renowned pianist Llyr Williams will headline a virtual concert at a top festival.

The Wrexham-born maestro will perform works by Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert on a stunning new Steinway piano for the Wales International Piano Festival.

It will be the first time the classical music star has appeared at the festival which is held every four years, organised by Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (William Mathias Music Centre), Caernarfon.

The event showcases recitals by outstanding professional musicians as well as hosting prestigious piano competitions – with prizes this year totalling nearly £10,000.

Despite 18 months of logistical setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 festival has attained a full complement of competition entrants.

There will be16 competitors in each of three categories for junior solo pianists, senior solo pianists, and accompanists. It is one of only a handful of festivals in the world which includes an accompanist category.

This year the festival takes on a hybrid format with the evening concerts pre-recorded and streamed online, while competitions and other events will happen live at Galeri Caernarfon.

Organisers say it would not be possible to put on the festival without the support of the sponsors which include the Arts Council of Wales, Colwinston Trust, Foyle Foundation, Gwynedd Council, Pendine Park care organisation via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust, Roberts of Portdinorwic, Ty Cerdd, Snowdonia Fire Protection, A&B Cymru and several individual donors.

The Llyr Williams concert has been recorded in advance and will be streamed online on the October 15 to open the festival.

Music lovers will be able to buy tickets to watch the virtual recital on the festival’s website www.pianofestival.co.uk which will be available to view for 24 hours.

Llyr is a globally acclaimed performer and a specialist in Ludwig van Beethoven works with several of the composer’s complete sonata cycles under his belt. He has performed at iconic venues including Carnegie Hall, New York, and Wigmore Hall, London.

His affinity with Beethoven’s music fits in perfectly with the Wales International Piano Festival 2021’s central theme, paying homage to Beethoven and his considerable legacy. Llyr’s programme will include Beethoven’s Sonata Opus 31, no 3 (The Hunt), and Frédéric Chopin’s majestic ‘Funeral March’ Sonata.

Iwan Llewelyn-Jones, the festival’s Artistic Director, said: “Llyr is an extraordinary musician and a consummate performer and we are delighted to welcome him to the 2021 festival.  

The concert was recorded at Bangor University’s Powis Hall with Llyr performing on the magnificent new Steinway concert grant piano recently purchased by the university.

After recording, Llyr described the Steinway as remarkable: “It really draws out all the different colours of the music.”

The festival was originally due to be staged in May 2020 to mark the year of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in December 1770.

But due to the effects of global pandemic lockdowns and concert venue closures worldwide it had to be postponed twice

Iwan said: “After the uncertainties of the last 18 months and the ongoing pandemic situation we made the bold decision to adopt a hybrid format. It means people will be able to enjoy watching these magnificent performances online from the comfort of their own homes.”

Llyr said: “I feel honoured to be helping to mark the two and a half centuries which have passed since Beethoven’s birth, and especially so as we didn’t get to celebrate as fully as he deserved last year which was the actual 250th anniversary year.”

Also on the festival’s virtual programme is a concert of chamber music with a performance of   Beethoven’s Archduke Trio by Sara Trickey (violin), Sebastian van Kuijk (cello) and Iwan Llewelyn-Jones.

Soprano Alys Roberts, will join them to give the world premieres of four newly commissioned works by the prominent Welsh composers Pwyll ap Sion, Joseph Davies, Sarah Lianne Lewis and Bethan Morgan-Williams.

Using traditional Welsh music and literature and drawing inspiration from Beethoven, the composers have created highly evocative works that explore time and place with atmosphere and drama.

The final evening concert will see a performance of French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ iconic masterpiece Carnival of the Animals which also provides the inspiration for community outreach projects and school workshops which the festival team is undertaking in the run up to the main weekend.

Further details of how to view the three virtual concerts can be found on the festival website, www.pianofestival.co.uk

In the piano competitions entrants have their sights on a top prize of £700 in the junior category, £3,000 in the senior and £1,500 in the accompanist category.

Catrin Morris Jones, who is one of the administrative team organising the festival, said “We look forward to welcoming the competitors to Galeri Caernarfon and it will also be possible for members of the public to come to watch the competitions. Final timetable and details will be announced on the website soon.”

: “It has been a challenging 18 months but we are determined to deliver a fantastic festival. We have some money left to raise in order to reach our fundraising target and  we have set up forms on our website for people to take part in Sponsor a Note – which is basically sponsoring us via choosing your favourite piano key.”

For more details about the festival timetable, to order tickets or find out how to sponsor a note visit www.pianofestival.co.uk

Photo: © Hannan Images

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