Morfydd Llwyn Owen: Four Welsh Impressions
Although Welsh composer Morfydd Llwyn Owen only composed seriously for the last 10 years of her short life, her huge catalogue showcases her musical styles and genres she used. Composed between 1914-15, Four Welsh Impressions sits as part of Owen’s solo piano catalogue. These four miniatures were written whilst Owen was studying at the Royal Academy of Music, with the titles of all four pieces reflecting her favourite locations and her friends. Described as ‘impassioned portraits’, this set of miniatures has become a popular set for pianists.
No.1 – Llanbrynmair
Reflecting her father’s birth place and frequent holiday destination, Llabbrynmair is a work tinged perhaps with some sadness. The lamenting and yearning feeling within the music showcases Owen’s sublime style and how she writes for the piano. The structure is loosely based around a sarabande, with the slow moving melody growing into a passionate climax. Owen uses dramatic dynamic changes near the time of the climax to create intensity within the music.
No.2 – Glantaf
Showcasing the beautiful views of the River Taff from Owen’s home in Treforest, the melancholy cloak over the second movement is similar in some respects to the first movement. Based around chordal movement rather than a single melody, the richness from this music is at the forefront of the music. Evocative and sensitive, Glantaf closes quietly and with no fuss.
No.3 – Nant-y-Ffrith
Referencing some of her friends in this movement, Nant-y-Ffrith explores a landscape in Wrexham which has rivers, waterfalls and woods nearby. Close to the home of her friend, Mina Williams, the beautiful sights here are reflected in the dramatic dynamic contrasts throughout the piece. Highly passionate in places, and trailing off in others, the music is said to reflect that of conversation between Owen and Williams. The piece finishes quietly.
No.4 – Beti Bwt
The nickname of a close friend of Owen’s, Beti Bwt is in the style of a minuet and trio. Starting from the bottom of the piano and growing into a sweet melody in the middle of the piano, this piece has been likened to the stylings of Frédéric Chopin. The dainty central section requires a soft touch as the melody is reimagined. The opening burst from the bottom of the instrument notes the change into the final stretch of the piece. After turning to the minor for the trio, Owen resolves back to the major to finish the piece off.
Ⓒ Alex Burns