The versatile Angela Hewitt

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Ricordanza
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The versatile Angela Hewitt

Post by Ricordanza » Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:54 pm

It’s convenient, but not always accurate, to assign classical music performers to categories. The assigned category for Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is “Bach Specialist.” It certainly fits, if one considers that she is best known for performing Bach, and has recorded virtually all of his keyboard works. But after hearing her in recital for the first time on Tuesday night, November 3, I’d have to conclude that the category “Bach Specialist” is far too limiting. In a varied and thoroughly enjoyable program, she demonstrated that she is a versatile pianist with a persuasive approach to a wide array of the keyboard repertoire.

Hewitt began both halves of the program with sets of “Sonatas” by a contemporary of Bach, Domenico Scarlatti. In form and in length, these are not Sonatas in the same mode as Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven. But they are gems in the keyboard literature, and Scarlatti produced 555 of them! The first set of four consisted of the well-known D Minor (as catalogued by Kirkpatrick, No. 9); the equally well-known C Major (K. 159); the pensive B Minor (K. 87); and the effusive D Major (K. 29). The last Sonata in the set was particularly striking, with its rhythmic vitality and repeated notes, clearly reflecting the Spanish residence (at the time of these compositions) of this Italian-born composer. All of these Sonatas were played with exquisite articulation, and with just enough pedal to remind us that the modern piano can serve as an effective vehicle for these works.

And then there was Bach, but a most unusual work of the master. Capriccio sopra la lontananza del fratello dilettissimo (On the departure of his beloved brother) is a piece of program music by the teen-age Bach. While the music may have referred to the departure of his older brother, Johann Jakob, at least one scholar believes that the real subject was not a biological brother, but a good friend (his Bro, right?). Well, we can’t go the source and ask him who was the real subject of the piece, but we can enjoy Hewitt’s fine interpretation of this unusual work.

Hewitt closed the first half with perhaps the most famous piano work with a “farewell” theme: Beethoven’s Les Adieux Sonata, Op. 81a. This is a piece rich in emotion and musical creativity. Hewitt delivered a performance of clarity and power. This great work may have a sad theme, but hearing a performance like this brought joy.

Three more Sonatas (K. 69, 427, and 96) by Scarlatti began the program’s second half. While not as engaging to this listener as the four Sonatas in the first half, they formed a fitting introduction to works by two Spaniards composed more than 200 years later.

First, we heard a set of three favorites from Isaac Albeniz’ Suite Espanola: Sevilla, Asturias, and Castilla. Hewitt is clearly at home in the Spanish idiom, and my one regret was that she only had room for three of these evocative works.

The concluding work, by Manuel de Falla, may have surprised those who identify de Falla with light classics such as the Ritual Fire Dance. Fantasia Baetica is no light classic. While clearly a piece inspired by the flamenco tunes and rhythms of southern Spain, it is musically and harmonically adventurous, and a bravura piece for the piano. In its raw power and edgy dissonance, it sometimes seems like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on a trip to Spain. But it also has some figurations that suggest, yes, Scarlatti. Bach specialist or not, Hewitt played it brilliantly and conveyed the earthy Spanish flavor of this piece.

Hewitt closed the evening with one encore, fittingly, another Scarlatti Sonata.

As the evening concluded, I realized that Angela Hewitt had just joined a different category, namely, she had become one of my favorites.

P.S. Thanks to "arepo" for suggesting the adjective for the subject line.

Donald Isler
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Re: The versatile Angela Hewitt

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Nov 07, 2015 10:54 am

Thanks for the very interesting and well-written review, Henry. Hewitt is one of the major pianists I have yet to hear in concert. Bronfman is another, but as he's playing nearby in Westchester County this evening, I may go to hear him.
Donald Isler

Ricordanza
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Re: The versatile Angela Hewitt

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:15 am

Donald Isler wrote:Bronfman is another, but as he's playing nearby in Westchester County this evening, I may go to hear him.
GO!

arepo
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Re: The versatile Angela Hewitt

Post by arepo » Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:33 pm

Henry..

Another one of your terrific reviews. I agree that Angela Hewitt is far more than a Bach specialist and she proved it conclusively at this superb recital. She flowed through this really difficult program in total command and actually seemed to enjoy herself immensely , knowing she had the audience in the palm of her hand.

Thanks again for your enlightening and always accurate summary.

Stearns is a moron.

cliftwood

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