Bach Concertos on Hyperion

2005-07-01 / BBC Music Magazine / Nicholas Anderson

Two new releases embrace Bach’s concertos for single keyboard. That is to say that, in addition to the seven Harpsichord concertos (BWV 1052-1058) pianist Angela Hewitt has included the Fifth Brandenburg and the Triple Concerto (BWV 1044). Neither of these last-mentioned are, strictly speaking keyboard concertos though in each of them the harpsichord, or in this instance piano, enjoys a prominent obbligato role. The harpsichord is not entirely absent from the performances, though, since it is used as a continuo instrument thereby allowing the piano to assume purely solo status.

Hewitt’s Bach playing is well-known for its expressive restraint, lucid textures and rhythmic grace. These virtues are abundantly present in her thoughtful, unmannered approach to the Concertos. Contrapuntal arguments are admirably clear and Hewitt’s restricted use of the sustaining pedal ensure a pleasing clarity of dialogue. These virtues are mirrored by the lightly articulated bowing of the strings of the Australian Chamber Orchestra under the direction of its leader Richard Tognetti.

Readers who enjoy Bach on the piano will find much to admire and to please the senses in these performances whose modesty and freedom from intrusive idiosyncracy makes them more rewarding than rival piano versions by Glenn Gould (Sony), though Andras Schiff with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Decca) offers stronger competition. My own preference just lies with Hewitt and her Australian musicians.

Five stars for both performance and sound, and listed as new Benchmark recording.