J S BACH
Italian Concerto; Two Capriccios; Four Duets; French Overture in B minor
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
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
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