Bach in Glasgow

2008-05-19 / Glasgow Herald / Conrad Wilson

Angela Hewitt, City Hall, Glasgow

As one of the leading modern exponents of Bach, Angela Hewitt is her own person, a pianist quite different from Andras Schiff, Murray Perahia and other experts in the field. She is herself in another way, too, in that she employs a Fazioli piano to convey what she feels about the music. With its clear, warm, textured tone and elegant identifying logo, it is a make of piano (built near Venice) still a rarity but welcome on any platform, and Hewitt’s account of Book One of the 48 preludes and fugues showed why.

Beautifully scaled to the surroundings of Glasgow City Hall, where she appeared on Saturday during a world tour, her playing was notable for its contrasts between soft and loud, thought and intensity, melancholy and dash, alertness to every twist and turn of the music. Here we heard the sounds that prompted one authority to call Bach the most romantic of all composers, and Schoenberg to hail him as the first of the atonalists.

Spread over an enthrallingly evolving recital, its 150-minute span broken more irksomely by the intrusion of latecomers than the inclusion of an interval, it was a fascinating feat of timing, of definition and ambiguity of mood, of making minor keys sound like major ones and vice versa. A sense of anticipation, moreover, made its point as the tonality of the music was gradually cranked upwards from C major (a gentle, subtly coloured account of the most famous of the preludes) to the grand sonorities of the closing fugue in B minor. Book Two, an unmissable event in Glasgow’s Piano Legends series, follows tonight. Be there on time.