Recording: Albany Troy 1429, A Prayer for Poland: Chamber Music of Frédéric Chopin. Performed by Brent Wissick, cello, Richard Luby, violin, and Andrew Willis, 1848 Pleyel
"The special star of this show is Andrew Willis's Pleyel, an instrument whose high notes ring out with an almost celesta-like chime, and whose midrange has a velveteen quality. This is a fantastic CD, distinguished by magnificent performances of these works by three outstanding artists and by a recording of vivid presence and sound quality. Very highly recommended."
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare, issue 37:4 (March/April 2014)
Chamber Concert, Charleston SC, April 13, 2012
"The true revelation of the evening was Andrew Willis's exquisite performance of two midcentury Italian sonatas, one by Domenico Alberti, the other by Giovanni Benedetto Platti, on a replica of a 1735 Florentine piano. For some listeners my parting thought here was literal, for others surely only metaphorical, but either way it rings true: some 260 years after its composition, this was entirely new music."
Melanie Lowe, Eighteenth-Century Music, Vol. 10, No. 1 (March 2013)
Recital, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, March 11, 2011
"Andrew Willis...played a recital of mid-century compositions connected to Berlin and the Bach family. The instrument, another fantasy reconstruction (now of a c. 1735 Florentine piano) served as the closest available approximation of the Silbermann J. S. Bach probably played at Potsdam. Willis's masterful sense of timing and the delicate tone of the instrument held the audience in a profound, attentive silence."
Martin Küster, Westfield, E-Newsletter of the Westfield Center, Vol. XXII, No. 2, Spring 2011
Chamber Concert, Magnolia Baroque Festival, Winston-Salem NC, June 19, 2010
"Willis dazzled throughout with his technical and artistic skills. [In] the Second Gamba Sonata...the balance was exceptional, the insight from both players, keen, and the response from the audience, enthusiastic."
John W. Lambert, Classical Voice North Carolina, June 19, 2010
Recital, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, October 16, 2009
"Andrew Willis really likes keyboards - both owning them and playing them. On Friday night...it was an 1841 Bösendorfer, an instrument somewhere between a modern grand and an early fortepiano. The entire evening was devoted to Mendelssohn - perfectly suited both to the instrument and Mr. Willis's temperament.
"Willis's playing invited the audience into the aesthetics of the 19th century. The technically difficult passages were tossed off with decorum and just the right amount of passion. Willis, with his sensitive, lyric playing and with virtuosity to burn, certainly makes the case that Mendelssohn needs to be re-thought in this, his second centenary year."
Tim Lindeman, Classical Voice North Carolina, October 16, 2009
Chamber Concert, Magnolia Baroque Festival, Winston-Salem NC, June 18, 2008
"Willis's extraordinary virtuosity was given full scope in two well-known selections by Haydn - Fantasia in C, Hob. XVII: 4 (1789), and Sonata in G, Hob. XVI: 40 (1782-84?). Willis articulated every note precisely as he 'burnt up the ivories' in the sonata's 'Presto'!"
William Thomas Walker, Classical Voice North Carolina, June 18, 2008
Concerto Concert, Boston Early Music Festival, June 11, 2009
"The overt drama in Mr. Willis's reading of the [Bach] D minor Concerto (BWV 1052)...had more to do with the briskness and energy he brought to it than with the sound of the instrument."
Allan Kozinn, New York Times, Arts Beat blog, June 11, 2009, 4:36 pm
"Willis's easygoing, dancing phrasing warmed up the chamber-sized dimensions of the playing, and...the closing Allegro had a happy brio. Providing a rippling accompaniment to the whole ensemble, the softer, subtler touch [of the Florentine fortepiano] made for an invitingly plush sound."
Soho the Dog, Instant Encore blog, June 11, 2009
Recital, Strathmore Performing Arts Center, Bethesda MD, October 26, 2008
"From the first measures of C.P.E. Bach's frisky Rondo, Wq. 59, No. 4, Willis revealed the unexpected resonance of the Walter/Dulin replica, its sonorous clarity enabling the performer to carve out ultra-distinct phrasing and diaphanous textures; and in Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 2, No. 3, Willis raced through its Allegros with every note distinguishable. At the same time, the Adagio was given a supreme legato coupled with exquisite shadings."
Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post, October 29, 2008
"Willis [is] a pianist who plays deftly and with great style and evident wit."
Stephen Neal Dennis, October 26, 2008, www.allartsreview4u.com
Chamber Concert, Duke University, Durham NC, January 23, 2007
"Willis brought out his [1848 Pleyel's] bright tone as each element of the score was crisply articulated. Willis balanced all the demands of Chopin's Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 45 (1841), perfectly, projecting cleanly detailed arpeggios and unbroken musical lines.
"Every music lover ought to attend any opportunity to hear Willis play this wonderful instrument in recital."
William Thomas Walker, Classical Voice North Carolina, January 23, 2007
Concerto Concert, Magnolia Baroque Festival, Winston-Salem NC, June 21, 2006
"It was a treat to hear fortepianist Andrew Willis play Mozart's miraculous Concerto No. 21 in C, K.467. Willis's playing was masterful - it was simple, straightforward, and eloquent without a trace of Romantic affectation."
William Thomas Walker, Classical Voice North Carolina, June 2006
Recital, Old Dominion University, Norfolk VA, March 20, 2006
"In the beautiful second movement 'Adagio e cantabile,' Willis played with a deep level of expression and a rich sonority surprising in an instrument known more for its delicacy. In the first movement, Willis clearly set forth Haydn's themes, building a convincing musical structure from these various pieces, and in the final 'Tempo di Minuet,' he played with delightful crispness."
Paul Sayegh, The Virginian - Pilot, March 22, 2006
Recital, Bloomington Early Music Festival, May 22, 2005
"Willis made a strong case for the [Florentine fortepiano], not only in the Bach material but in diverting and felicitously embellished sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti and a batch of far lesser known Italians (Domenico Alberti, Benedetto Marcello, Baldassare Galuppi, etcetera). An unexpected BLEMF highlight!"
Peter Jacobi, Indiana Herald-Times, May 24, 2005
Recital, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem NC, January 28, 2005
"The brilliant fortepianist Andrew Willis inaugurated a stunning-and stunningly beautiful- fortepiano built by Rodney J. Regier (Freeport, Maine).
"It was an incredible experience to hear this new instrument, particularly under the fingers of Willis. He merits the term 'great performer' in ways that many bigger names manifestly do not, for he's an artist of the highest order, and his service to music is always paramount. His program was clearly selected to show off the instrument's many magnificent qualities, and it did so, but there was never any question about where Willis was coming from-it was music first, last, and always, during the program.
"A virtually unknown Præludium in F minor (WoO 55) led without pause directly into the Pathétique sonata in a way that suggested Josef Hofmann, for there seemed to be a bit of improvisation to bridge the shift in keys. That, too, was a master touch from one of the great masters of our time, and it made the program-yes, even such a special one as this-truly unique and memorable. The single encore was a charming bagatelle by Beethoven, after which the grateful and enthusiastic audience slipped quietly and contentedly into the night. Bravo Willis, bravo Regier and Walter."
John Lambert, Classical Voice North Carolina, January 2005
Recital, 1848 Pleyel grand piano, Music for a Great Space, Greensboro NC, October 15, 2004
"[Willis is] a scholar who can play - a musician whose work is informed but not constrained by his scholarship. This was perhaps more apparent during this Chopin and Fauré program than on any previous occasion. Willis's playing was consistently superb, his technical prowess and musicianship and interpretive skills were of the highest imaginable order, and his program brought revelation after revelation, at every turn. It was quite an evening...the response of the audience was prolonged and heartfelt."
John Lambert, Classical Voice North Carolina, October 2004
Recital, San Diego Harpsichord Society, San Diego, California, January 4, 2004
"Played with the nuanced phrasing and sensitivity to tone color of a fine musician like Willis (an authority on the early piano), the 'Stein' proved itself an eloquent exponent of the musical ideas and techniques that give the early Classical period its distinction.
"The instrument's finesse-and Willis's-were perhaps most strikingly demonstrated in the performance of the Adagio in B minor, K. 540, where the pianist brought out all the strangeness and profundity of this astonishing piece, at the same time adding his own artful (and quintessentially Mozartian) ornamentation in the repeats.
"A real musician plays what is inherent in the music, and that is precisely what Willis-an artist of spirited intensity-did."
Jonathan Saville, San Diego Reader, January 22, 2004
Recital, National Music Museum, Vermillion, South Dakota, May 19, 2003
"The most memorable, significant and inspired of the major performances was the closing one by Andrew Willis, who was also featured at Westfield's 'Beyond Notation' Conference last year. The façade of performance slipped away as he exploited in full the grand piano by Anton Martin Thÿm, Vienna, ca. 1815-1820. Willis seemed perfectly at home with the 'stops' of this extraordinary instrument, and...incorporated them seamlessly into the expression of each phrase of music, achieving thereby extraordinary effects from the most intimate one could imagine to the most thunderous of accents."
Susan Ferré, Westfield, Newsletter of the Westfield Center, Vol. XVI, No. 3-4, 2003
Performance of Beethoven's Sonata Op. 106, Palermo, Sicily, October 21, 2001
"The visionary quality of the huge Sonata in B flat major 'Hammerklavier' is a real challenge for those who dare attempt its formidably intricate contrapuntality and the inconsiderate demands it places on the performer. Andrew Willis dedicated himself to it with highly remarkable commitment. The interpretive impression of the American pianist was of a fevered vision of the whole which in pointing out rhythmic and dynamic contrasts brought the densely-packed treasures of the Sonata into detailed focus." (translated from Italian)
Giornale di Sicilia, October 23, 2001
Chamber Music Concert, Eastern Music Festival, Greensboro, NC, July 25, 2000
"Willis returned to the stage alone to perform Mozart's Rondo in A Minor, a work the composer wrote relatively late in life. For anyone who thinks that 'early' music (or Mozart, for that matter) sounds boring, I recommend hearing Willis. His playing is spontaneous and free, closely approaching the feeling of improvisation.
"The trio played [Mozart's Trio in E Major] with great elan. Again, Willis revealed his superb musicianship, facility and ability to meaningfully communicate an archaic style to a contemporary audience."
Tim Lindeman, News & Record, July 27, 2000
Concerto Concert, The Mozart Orchestra of Philadelphia, January 17, 1999
"Willis found color and melodic elegance in the [Mozart Concerto No. 26], exploiting the shorter, brighter sound of the [fortepiano] while fitting it to the orchestra's long phrases and transparent textures."
Daniel Webster, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 19, 1999
Concerto Concert, The Philadelphia Classical Symphony, October 4, 1998
"Willis is a stylish player whose evolving authority with the [fortepiano] has been documented in his concerts here over the last decade. He finds force and subtlety within the instrument's particular voice, and articulates musical lines and their variations in highly expressive ways.
"In [Beethoven's] Choral Fantasy, ...Willis played the spectacular introduction and variations with shadings to imply a wide range of emotion and seriousness. His playing probed different sonorities in dialogue with the orchestral instruments, and seemed to ride with the chorus in the finale rather than dominating it.
"Earlier, ...in the Concerto No.2, ...Willis's fluency argued for the value of the earlier piano in playing early Beethoven. The clarity of linear writing contrasts dramatically with the weight of chordal playing, qualities Willis developed well."
Daniel Webster, The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 5, 1998
"In his comments preceding the performance, [conductor] Karl Middleman described the Choral Fantasy as almost a piano concerto, with the vocalists, orchestra players and piano soloist conversing in dramatic exchanges. This approach was firmly validated by the bold, florid playing of Andrew Willis, who had the privilege of performing on a vintage Broadwood fortepiano..., which was built around the time that this music was written. If , in the public view, music emanating from a fortepiano is necessarily more dainty and subdued than a performance on a modern, steel-framed concert grand, Willis handily put such notions to rest. The vehemence and excitement with which this artist dispatched the music conjured images of the composer himself, who played with such strength as to snap strings.
"The ongoing development of the artistry of Andrew Willis ...was even more vividly demonstrated in the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2, where, with due respect to the solid direction of conductor Middleman, the intensely focused vision of Willis seemed to shape the performance. ...Willis portrayed this most slender of the five piano concerti of Beethoven with a remarkable blend of athleticism and poetry."
Peter Burwasser, Philadelphia City Paper, October 9-15, 1998
Recording: Claves 50-9707-10, Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas on Period Instruments. Performed by Tom Beghin, Malcolm Bilson, David Breitman, Ursula Dütschler, Zvi Meniker, Bart van Oort, and Andrew Willis
"The 'tempo of feeling' also looms large in Andrew Willis's ascent of the most challenging peak in the range, the 'Hammerklavier' Sonata. Some may object to Mr. Willis's freedom of tempo in the first movement; I can't recall hearing the movement played so flexibly by any other pianist. But to my ears, Mr. Willis displays an exceptional sense of timing and of how to balance detail with long-range development; he also summons real humanity and depth. This is a 'Hammerklavier' of rare stature."
Bernard D. Sherman, The New York Times, June 14, 1998
"Perhaps the most consistently satisfying pianist here is Willis. His phrasing is sophisticated and organic, ebbing and flowing within a disciplined framework, informed by both short- and long-term rhythmic and harmonic awareness. ...Willis...makes this formidable work his own, notably in the touching, eloquently spun Adagio sostenuto."
Jed Distler, Piano and Keyboard, November/December 1998
"The infamous Hammerklavier is, at 40-plus minutes, Beethoven's longest, most complicated instrumental work..., and it has been the downfall of countless pianists. ...I am happy to report that the present instrument, an 1835 large Viennese grand of Gottlieb Hafner, is very much up to the task. And so, too, is the pianist Andrew Willis. There are many long stretches of dense, imitative counterpoint in this work ...that test the keyboard powers of any pianist to the absolute limits, and Mr. Willis come through consistently on top. I was never quite able to shake the impression of a constant 'struggle,' but the concept of a conflict or confrontation is probably indigenous to this music, and it may be impossible to play it any other way. Andrew Willis is to be congratulated for his extraordinary accomplishment."
Christopher Broderson, Continuo, April 1998