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Iwan Llewelyn-Jones

  • Pianist

Reviews

Iwan Llewelyn-Jones press reviews

A romantic debut
Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph, July 1987

In his London debut recital at the Wigmore Hall on Tuesday night, Iwan Llewelyn-Jones revealed a lively, imaginative, artistic temperament which lent itself naturally to the Romantic repertory.

Aside from a Mozart sonata, his programme was drawn from the period spanning Chopin and Ravel, with Scriabin and Franck in between (and with Debussy's "La fille aux cheveux de lin" played as an encore, in a thoroughly captivating way that touched in the music's sense of wistful languor and caught its quiet, unassuming expressiveness ideally).

On this evidence, Mr Llewelyn-Jones is a pianist who gives great thought to his interpretations, He is able to take his technique for granted (or so it seems), and he builds from this firm basis readings of wide and sensitive scope which never lose sight of the particular idiom of the music or seek to impose on it anything extraneous.

Thus, his playing of Ravel's "Le tombeau de Couperin" had a crystal clarity, a classical simplicity in which each note was carefully articulated and found its place in a well-reasoned, nicely shaped and characterful performance.

In Franck's "Chorale, Prelude and Fugue", too, his playing had breadth and power and succeeded in bringing to the contrapuntal arguments (which can often sound routine) a flair and a sense of instinctively realised keyboard colour which reinforced both the music's strength and its detailed effect.

Equally impressive was the way in which Mr Llewelyn-Jones judged the Scriabin Seventh Sonata (the "Black Mass"), volatile, impetuous, a performance in which the suddenly switching moods, the abrupt halts and explosions were excitingly done within an acutely observed pattern of the sonata's resolute rhythmic drive.

This was virile, responsive playing, alert to the extraordinary subjective nuances of Scriabin's writing, and matched by Mr Llewelyn-Jones's approach to the music of Scriabin's early mentor, Chopin.

In the "Andante spianata and Grand Polonaise" Op.22, his playing combined control, with abandon, intellectual concentration with fluent decoration, grace with momentum and drive. In short, a thoroughly engaging recital.


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The piano as London's Forte
Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph, June 1988

Last year the musicologist Nicholas Temperley completed a 20-volume edition of keyboard music entitled "The London Pianoforte School, 1766-1860". Thus he brought to light with tangible evidence the long-acknowledged fact that - particularly in the late 18th century and early decades of the 19th - London was a European centre of piano writing, playing, publishing and manufacturing.

The "London" composers we still hear of with any frequency today were all foreigners: Clementi, Dussek, J.C.Bach, Cramer, Moscheles. Burton, Busby, Best and Chipp have long since been confined to musical histories and dictionaries, something which makes Ian Hobson's selection from Professor Temperley's editions particularly interesting. He is giving three recitals of them at the Wigmore Hall: the first was on Wednesday night, and the other two are on Sunday and next Wednesday.

Thomas Busby's E Major Sonata (1785) was the most conservative of the pieces in the opening concert, casting back to days of Domenico Scarlatti in its two-movement form and in a style of writing which had not quite made the transition from harpsichord to piano. The two Clementi sonatas, though, were pure piano works, the C major (1779) being a study in the tonal individuality of octave-writing, the F minor (1785) exploring the instrument's dramatic potential and the dynamic range which gave it its name - "piano" and "forte".

Both J.C.Bach (in his C minor Sonata, 1773) and Dussek (in his E flat sonata, "The Farewell", 1800) similarly explored the piano's own nuances and the technical advances which were constantly being made.

None more so than by Chopin, whose music has - in modern programming - tended to eclipse pratically the whole of the "London" school. Iwan Llewelyn-Jones's all-Chopin recital at the Wignore yeaterday lunchtime confirmed him as a pianist of impeccable taste, confidence and stylish sensitivity.

In the F minor Ballade, as in the B minor Sonata, here was playing which combined emotional power with subtlety of detail, breadth with delicacy. The control and imagination of tonal shading - as in the opening of the the plaintive C minor Nocturne - was assured and eloquently applied, just as the subtle rhythmic underpinnings and telling turns of phrase in his two Mazurkas displayed an impressive maturity and expressive musical response.


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LLewelyn-Jones
Edward Greenfield, Guardian, January 1990

That the French piano tradition is a robust, not just a delicate plant was a point never far away from this imaginatively planned Wigmore Hall recital by the young Welsh pianist, Iwan Llewelyn-Jones. When Debussy in the second of his Estampes, Soirée dans Grenade, asks for the playing to be très rythmé in the Spanish dance rhythms of the habanera, Llewelyn-Jones vigorously made the music sparkle, as he did too in his final item, another Mediterranean inspiration, Poulenc's brilliant suite, Napoli.

Significantly he chose among his Messiaen items two of the four Rhythmic Studies, both entitled Ile de feu, and the fire was made to blaze with brightness and sharp clarity. Even Messiaen's cradle-song Le baiser de l'Enfant Jésus, was less remarkable for the gentle rocking rhythms at the opening than for the Stavinskian bite of the unrelenting climax.

There was nothing sentimental in such inspirations, Llewelyn-Jones seemed to be saying. Significantly for his opening Fauré item he chose one of the most classically structured of the solo piano works, the Theme and Variations, and in that his direct approach, his avoidance of conventional piano magic, was at first disconcerting.

Yet the power and clean-cut precision of his playing, brought out by sparing and beautifully-judged pedalling, had all the more impact for being so regularly set against daringly pianissimos of jewelled clarity.


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Iwan Llewelyn-Jones at St David's Hall
Rian Evans, 3rd October 2006
It is as an interpreter of French piano music that Iwan Llewelyn-Jones has been most often acclaimed but at Cardiff in his St David's Hall recital on 3 October it was fascinating to hear how the sensibilities and fluency this pianist has brought to that repertoire were now being subtly deployed in the music of other composers.

As it happens, it was playing the music of Schubert that Jones first attracted my attention in his late teens so it was of particular interest to hear the B flat major Impromptu D.935 at the opening of this recital. A warm and expressive tone was immediately apparent but it was the intelligent and incisive approach to Schubert's use of variation form which made this performance so involving. The Schubert was followed by Beethoven's E major Sonata Opus 109 and since this ends with a Theme and Variations, Jones' very subtle exploration of the variation form in consecutive works offered much food for thought here.

By way of contrast, John Metcalf's Endless Song was a relaxed but nevertheless focussed reverie, the bell-like resonances always well-controlled. Iwan Llewelyn-Jones ended his programme with Ravel's Sonatine. The lovely liquidity of sound which characterises Jones' approach to French music now flowed abundantly, with some delightful colouristic effects. Debussy's La fille aux cheveux de lin played with such gently flowing lines that the flaxen-haired girl could have been a mermaid, made the perfect encore.