Britain’s music lovers have many reasons to be thankful for London’s Wigmore Hall, not least for the Monday broadcasts of lunchtime concerts on Radio 3 (1pm, repeated on Sundays and available on iPlayer). These offer a glimpse of the many imaginative recital series programmed by the hall’s director, John Gilhooly, one of which is now available in a 12-CD box set, entitled Beethoven Unbound (Signum Classics).
Gilhooly asked Welsh virtuoso Llŷr Williams for a Beethoven piano sonata cycle spread over nine concerts, which would allow time for other keyboard works to be interleaved. The result is not a chronological sonata series, but a succession of live mini-recitals. So, for instance, the mighty Hammerklavier sonata (No 29 in B-flat major, Op 106) is followed by Six Bagatelles, Op 126, and the Eroica Variations precede the Funeral March sonata No 12 and Les adieux, Op 81a.
Williams plays with profound intelligence and a wittily knowing ear for the quirky surprises Beethoven lays in the path of the pianist; witness his handling of the Fantasia in G minor, Op 77, a piece he happily describes as “totally bonkers”.