Bach Concertos on Hyperion

2005-07-19 / / David Hurwitz

Piano Concertos in D minor BWV 1052 & G minor BWV 1058; Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 BWV 1050; Triple Concerto in A minor BWV 1044

Angela Hewitt (piano); Alison Mitchell (flute); Richard Tognetti (violin)
Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti

Hyperion- CDA67307(CD)

There has been no shortage of excellent Bach keyboard concerto performances on the piano, from Glenn Gould to Murray Perahia, and this newcomer certainly belongs among the finest. Angela Hewitt feels and projects the music with such inevitability that she effectively silences criticism. More than choosing the right tempos for what she wishes to express, her variety of phrasing and articulation is a constant source of delight. In the great D minor concerto (BWV 1052), nothing sounds rushed or notey”, and the intelligent use of harpsichord continuo in addition to the piano solo makes the dialog between piano and orchestra unusually dramatic. The structure of the work thus clarified, Hewitt is free to let her fancy roam in the solo episodes. Her singing legato is absolutely gorgeous in the slow movement (as is the case throughout this program), while both there and in the G minor concerto (BWV 1058) she finds an unusual degree of passion in the allegros.

It’s also particularly gratifying to have the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in a piano version. Her partners in the Australian Chamber Orchestra (particularly Alison Mitchell on flute) match her in imagination, and Hewitt’s treatment of the great first movement cadenza reveals a keen awareness of how to shape Bach’s figurations into larger paragraphs that build to a natural climax. The highlight of the disc, though, is this rendition of the Triple Concerto (BWV 1044), a gaunt, grim reading of great concentration and intensity. Hewitt, in her thoughtful booklet notes, relates this music to Bach’s sacred works, and her performance makes this hypothesis completely believable. The final fugue, in particular, taken at a moderate pace, permits the players to engage in a true dialog that’s unusually moving and eloquent. In other words, whatever the music is saying, in these players hands it really matters.

Verbal description obviously has its limitations, and I can only urge Bach lovers to hear this disc (and its companion, CDA67308) without delay. There isn’t a single bar by Hewitt or the Australian Chamber Orchestra that sounds mechanical or perfunctory. Each work is shaped with a care that enhances rather than detracts from the impression of idiomatic, spontaneous music-making. The balance between Hewitt, her fellow soloists, and the larger ensemble is absolutely ideal, and the engineering in general is fully worthy of the performances. This is an exceptional disc in every respect, and one that offers enough that’s new and insightful to more than justify acquiring yet one more recording of these ever-popular works.”