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Italian Concerto; Two Capriccios; Four Duets; French Overture in B minor
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Hyperion CDA67306 [69 mins]

Delivered at breakfast time and straight onto the CD player, the Italian Concerto was just the thing to start the day! The Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is famous for her Bach since winning the Toronto Bach Piano Competition in 1985, but she is versatile and her repertoire includes whole recital programmes of Fauré and Roussel and her Hyperion CDs one of Messiaen.[CDA67054]

The Italian Concerto is one of Bach's happiest works, with dancing movements framing a profound Andante. Hewitt finds just the right airy touch and tone, and she can be heard to think the music along; no automatic pilot or interpretation set in concrete. There are occasional little expressive surges, not possible on the harpsichord, but never beyond tasteful boundaries. They sound as if they would differ from performance to performance with the feeling of the moment.

The half hour French Overture is a grand affair, its Overture 12 minutes long, with strongly dotted rhythms giving strength and nobility, followed by the usual series of short dance movements, a more substantial and moving Sarabande at their centre. The Duets are later equivalents to the 2-part Inventions, composed especially for connoisseurs. The two Capriccios are teenage works, one on the Departure of his Beloved Brother complete with the posthorn. The other is a long fugue with a bravura finish; Angela Hewitt, who supplies her own notes, tells us that some of its treacherous leaps would be easier on a pedal harpsichord; I am sure she will have studied the music on instruments of Bach's own time.

It is a studio recording (Henry Wood Hall, London, spread unhurriedly over four days last October) and the toning of the chosen Steinway, prepared and maintained by technician Gerd Finkenstein, is just right. I guess they were enjoyable sessions.

Angela Hewitt makes as good a case for playing Bach on the modern piano as anyone, and this collection of mainly lesser-known pieces is commended in every respect. There are six earlier CDs of Bach played by Hewitt in the Hyperion catalogue - they have all garnered enthusiastic reviews.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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