Does Wagner sound best on piano?
Llŷr Williams has released an album of Wagner's piano music – and it's the most intriguing classical release for years, says Ivan Hewett
6:30PM BST 11 Sep 2014
Wagner was a famously bad pianist. Almost as bad as Berlioz who could hardly play it at all, and worked out his pieces at the guitar (which some say accounts for their sometimes wonky harmonies). Wagner wasn’t much better though that didn’t stop him from inviting guests round to his lakeside villa in Switzerland and belabouring them with two hours of playing and singing. “Stop, stop,” they would cry. "We are ill, it’s not a piano or a voice, but a vision.” Lucky Wagner, to have such tactful guests.
Given this, releasing an album of Wagner’s piano music seems perverse, but young Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams has just done it, on the Signum label. A double-album, in fact, just to throw caution to the winds. Is it worth it? Emphatically yes. Wagner Without Words is the most intriguing classical release I’ve heard for months, if not years. It contains most of the original piano music Wagner wrote, plus no fewer than nine transcriptions of Wagner’s operatic music for piano, some familiar, some little-known, and one brand-new.
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