Bach Concertos on Hyperion

2005-07-01 / Audiophile Audition / Laurence Vittes

A standard of excellence for modern piano/orchestral performances of the Bach concertos, plus the Brandenburg No. 5 & Triple Concerto

BACH: The Keyboard Concertos – Angela Hewitt, piano, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra directed from the violin by Richard Tognetti – Hyperion CDA67307 & 67308 (2 CDs, 77 & 75 mins., also available on SACD):

If Angela Hewitt’s Bach series to date has established a standard of excellence for what can be done with a modern piano in the composer’s solo repertoire, these two new discs devoted to concertos have raised the standard to an entirely new level.

It is as if the clear precision of Glenn Gould were used as the starting point for an excursion of unbounded joy and beauty. Each tone that Hewitt strikes has a distinctly percussive but nevertheless subtle and extraordinarily seductive ring to it, and the collaboration between her and the sensitive modern-instrument orchestra is marvelous. Hewitt benefits enormously by having Richard Tognetti, an extremely talented musician (with a superb recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto to his credit) who has yet to make his impact felt in the U.S., as her partner in these wonderful performances. And these are not just a series of cookie-cutter interpretations; each concerto has a distinctive character.

In addition to the more or less standard seven solo keyboard concertos on two very well-filled discs, Hyperion generously also throws in the fifth Brandenburg (with a gripping performance of the first movement cadenza) and the always enigmatic but affecting Triple Concerto in A minor. In sum: impossibly anachronistic, but dazzling and irresistible just the same.

Ludger Böckenhoff’s recording made in Verbrugghen Hall at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music is of such great depth and airiness that this will be become one of those demonstration discs that you delight in playing for friends.