Bach: The English Suites

2003-09-14 / The Sunday Times / Hugh Canning

Classical CD of the Week

THE LATE Edward (Ted) Perry, Hyperion’s founder, did not alas, live to see the completion of Angela Hewitt’s outstanding series of Bach’s keyboard music, but when the first, third, and sixth of these suites were recorded late last year, he was still supervising as executive producer. Hewitt’s records (and many others) are a fitting monument to this great “independent” figure of the British recording industry. When the Canadian pianist embarked on the series, she was something of an unknown quantity; now she is regarded as one of the most consistently refreshing interpreters of Bach on the modern piano. This latest issue maintains the high standards of previous releases: as Hewitt points out in her excellent notes, the English suites are not English in the least, and are only so designated because Bach may have written them for an English aristocrat whose name is lost to history, and to distinguish them from the later French Suites, whose structure and style they closely resemble.

As ever, Hewitt brings this music to life with remarkably crisp articulation in the brisk contrapuntal movements, deep feeling in the sarabandes and exhilarating joie de vivre in the final gigues.