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Nathan Williamson’s Colour and Light is a memorably enterprising programme of British piano music performed with unwavering commitment and intensity, including a first recording of William Hershel Hill’s Litany and Toccata. As Williams reminds us in a lucid film, his recital ranges from the traditional to the progressive: Alwyn’s 12 Preludes ( formerly recorded by John Ogdon) are tonal and lyrical yet use serial technique; Peter Dickinson’s Paraphrase is a set of variations which include a parody of Satie, jazz and, overall, a combination of wit and pathos; Delius’ Nocturne and the intriguingly named Margo la Rouge (a one-act opera arranged by Ravel) magically recall 19th-century tonal language; and Elizabeth Lutyens was the first British composer to fully embrace serialism.

For Williams, Anthony Hershel Hill is ‘perhaps the most striking’ of all the composers on this disc. He studied with Cyril Smith, Herbert Howells and Nadia Boulanger, and his Litany and Toccata contrasts a ‘spiritual, transcendent world’ with trailblazing brilliance. The result is ‘foreboding and unsettling’ and alive with ‘terrific pianistic fireworks.’ No praise could be high enough of Williams’ performances where as in his previous discs of Brahms, Schubert and American piano music his conviction is palpable, making you long to hear more. Whether in the dream-world of the Delius Nocturne (why is this not in the repertoire of more pianists?) or in the fire and ice of the Herschel Hill Toccata, Williams unearths buried musical treasure beyond price.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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