Iffley Music Society

Cordelia Williams: Iffley Music Festival

By Giles Woodforde

"They sound almost like Bach, but with a twist to them," said pianist Cordelia Williams as she introduced the first two pieces in her Iffley recital. The works in question were two preludes and fugues by Shostakovich, and the description was apt. Prelude No 2 sounded like a stream running fast, while the following fugue sounded humorously manic. The fast stream appeared again in Fugue No 7, but now it sounded more robust — nearing the estuary perhaps.

Williams has an expansive style, which was helped by a decision to move the piano to a different position in Iffley Church Hall. The instrument now sounds much less aggressively harsh in loud passages. Playing four Impromptus by Schubert (D.899), Williams skilfully captured their varying moods, while retaining a feeling that Schubert improvised them on the spur of the moment (which of course he didn't). She also held on to an underlying sense of melancholy — especially in the oft-played Andante.

Williams let rip with a lively Mardi Gras in the first of four excerpts from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons. In spite of the title, the work was divided into monthly chunks, and published with accompanying texts. In Williams's atmospheric interpretation, March exactly matched the words "the song of the lark fills the blue abyss", while "fresh and clean May" had a curiously downbeat ending. Meanwhile, there was a sharp autumnal edge to October.

Finally, big dramatic guns blazed for Liszt's Après une Lecture de Dante. Here Williams filled Liszt's Purgatory with uncertainty and memories of lost happiness, whilst ensuring that the glorious ascent of a soul to Paradise was accompanied by thunderous praise of God.

Williams is just the sort of promising young artist that this festival exists to promote. Let's hope that its work can continue — the closure of piano hirer Russell Acott means that Iffley has no affordable instrument available for next year.

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