Mstation Classical Reviews

Valid RSS pre Dec 04 reviews are here

Mon, 20 Dec 2004

Bach, JS, Keyboard Works

Angela Hewitt - piano

Fantasia and Fugue in a minor BWV904
Aria Variata 'alla Maniera Italiana' BWV989
Sonata in D major BWV963
Partie in A major BWV832
Suite in f minor BWV823
Adagio in G major BWV968
Fugue in C major BWV953
Jesu, meine Zuversicht BWV728
Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten BWV691
Fantasia and Fugue in a minor BWV944

Recorded in Henry Wood Hall, London on 3-5 February 2004
Hyperion CDA67499

Although she has become somewhat ubiquitous in recent years, one cannot
help but admire Angela Hewitt. She has suffered from massive
over-exposure (BBC radio 3 being a real culprit in this - if it's Bach,
it's Angela) and yet retains integrity as an artist that most who
achieve such exposure loose. Hyperion is onto another winner with this
disc, the last in Angela's series of Bach keyboard works on this label.
There is a particularly interesting aspect to this disc as it presents a
selection of the "best of the rest" of J S Bach's works for keyboard.
Thus the obvious inclusions are missing leaving a repertoire that is at
once fascinating and less well known.

Hewitt's performances are always well reasoned and beautifully crafted,
her technique being allied to an impeccable sense of musicianship, which
enables her to present complex music ideas with apparent ease of
clarity. The grandeur inherent in the opening a minor fantasia and the
solemnity of the following complex fugue show this balance well. The
tempo chosen for the fugue is conservative, but Hewitt makes so much of
the individual lines that the feeling of movement is always present.

The Aria Variata 'alla Maniera Italiana' BWV989 is not a frequently
performed work, and yet it shows clear familial relationships with the
larger and better-known Goldberg variations. Hewitt's performance covers
almost the same breadth of vision and expression as would be possible in
the larger set. Also of great moment in this disc is the performance of
the suite in f minor BWV823. This noble work, although only three
movements long (a sublime two subject Prelude, and extended Sarabande en
Rondeau and a Gigue) provides one of the truly momentous highlights. The
Sarabande is performed with a grandeur and scope that compliments the
almost austere purity of the prelude. Throughout, Hewitt's distinctively
clear touch and careful articulation are everywhere in evidence. This is
superb playing of Bach at the piano.

If there is a criticism of Hewitt's performances (and it is debatable
whether one is needed) it could be the lack of rhetorical flourish in
the playing. This harks back to the old piano/harpsichord debate for the
performance of Bach's keyboard music, but the harpsichordists of recent
generations have made much of the ideas of musical rhetoric - of
stylised flourish and maximum contrast. All of this is there in Bach's
music without a doubt - rhetoric was the standard language of the 18th
century musician - but it could be argued that Hewitt's performances
tend towards the goal of beauty of sound and line above the possibility
of expression on different levels. In this disc the variety of the
programme negates the chance of any sense of monotony, but one wonders
how well this same highly polished, but always rather similarly
beautiful, sound would fare in a programme of, say, the 48 or the French

As it stands, this particular disc, with its wide variety of material,
excellent recording and matchlessly flawless piano sound from Hewitt,
has to come in as a strongly and easily recommendable release. Here is
67 minutes of beautiful playing, wonderfully well captured, and one
can't really ask for more than that.
((c) 2004 Peter Wells)

[] permanent link