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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV904 (1714-17) [7'59]
1. Fantasia [3'37]
2. Fugue [4'22]
Aria Variata 'alla Maniera Italiana' BWV989 (1709) [16'16]
3. Aria [2'15]
4. Variation I [1'19]
5. Variation II [1'19]
6. Variation III [1'24]
7. Variation IV [1'05]
8. Variation V [1'30]
9. Variation VI [1'56]
10. Variation VII [0'55]
11. Variation VIII [0'48]
12. Variation IX [0'59]
13. Variation X [2'42]
Sonata in D major BWV963 [8'52]
14. [first movement] [2'35]
15. [second movement] [1'08]
16. Fugue [2'13]
17. Adagio [1'01]
18. Thema all' imitatio Gallina Cuccu [1'52]
Partie in A major BWV832 [8'45]
19. Allemande [2'03]
20. Air pour les trompettes [2'31]
21. Sarabande [1'45]
22. Bourrée [1'04]
23. Gigue [1'20]
Suite in F minor BWV823 [8'26]
24. Prélude [2'08]
25. Sarabande en Rondeau [4'15]
26. Gigue [2'02]
27. Adagio in G major BWV968 [5'08]
28. Fugue in C major BWV953 [1'22]
29. Jesu, meine Zuversicht BWV728 [2'48]
30. Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten BWV691 [2'14]
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV944 [5'51]
31. Fantasia [0'56]
32. Fugue [4'54]
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Recorded in Henry Wood Hall, London, on 3–5 February 2004
HYPERION CDA67499 [67.42]

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Angela Hewitt’s notes state that this is the last of her CDs of solo Bach keyboard works. It has been a significant series, a laudable one, and there’s no lessening in perception in this volume. It takes a disparate collection of works written over the course of Bach’s career. There are no obvious ties that bind them, though equally the programming as such is perfectly explicable. They show, as she says, great variety stylistically – and that’s one of the greatest of the pleasures to be gathered from this disc.

She certainly evokes the organ sonorities of the Fantasia and Fugue in A minor with commensurate clarity and precision in the Fugue; textures here are luminous, voicings apt, and there is no sense either of diminution of feeling or of unscaled extravagance. Similarly with the Aria Variata 'alla Maniera Italiana' which appears in Andreas Bach’s Book and was probably written in 1709. Like the Goldberg Variations the theme returns at the end. Hewitt disregards the Largo indication for the first variation taking it at a more animated tempo, which feels right, and her left hand pointing in the third variation is captivating. Similarly the sense of speed, accuracy and control is nowhere more apparent than in variation eight and her apposite ornamentation shows itself in the return of the theme in the last, tenth variation.

BWV963 is the only original keyboard sonata by Bach – the others are transcriptions or used material by Reinken. Here she vests the short second movement with great amplitude and prettily brings out the quixotic chicken and cuckoo imitations in the finale marked, as if one couldn’t guess, Theme all’imitatio Gallina Cuccu. Entertaining though it is to hear this rather unbalanced and eccentric sonata the Partie in A major has rather more depth. It was for long thought to be by Telemann and its highlight, as Hewitt suggests, is the second movement Air for trompettes – unique for Bach and tremendous fun to listen to as well, one imagines, to play. The Suite in F minor is an explicitly French influenced compound whose middle movement, a Sarabande en Rondeau, has a gentle gravity; it actually sounds rather reserved here, though her articulation is first class.

Elsewhere we can speculate on the (doubtful) Adagio in C minor; it’s derived from the opening movement of Bach’s violin sonata in C major BWV 968 but the arrangement may well be by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Her Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten is effectively realised and one can admire the control of her Fugal playing in the Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV944 which by virtue of good programming and symmetry matches the opening piece in the same key, BWV904.

Hewitt’s notes are written in a down to earth and attractive way and she has been afforded the same warm and yet detailed acoustic as was the case in previous volumes.

Jonathan Woolf

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