Birthday Concerts in London

2008-09-30 / Daily Telegraph / Geoffrey Norris

Angela Hewitt and Daniel Muller-Schott: a doubly delightful birthday

Joy is the paramount quality that Angela Hewitt’s piano-playing radiates, as was evident in a group of 50th-birthday recitals she gave last week.

It might manifest itself in the smiling exuberance of a Bach gigue or, at the opposite extreme, in the way she can so fully enter into the intense introspective world of a solemn slow movement by Beethoven, but ever-present is a sense that she is deriving pleasure from what she does and in communicating it to others.

In a programme with the young cellist Daniel Müller-Schott, the aural rewards were doubled. The rapport between piano and cello was acute and instinctive, the blend of timbres fascinating. Only in one area did the balance seem to waver, and that was in Bach’s G minor Sonata BWV1029.

Earlier in the week, Hewitt had included Bach’s Partita No 5 BWV829 in a solo recital, revealing the striking clarity of thought and execution she brings to her interpretations, and the fun that she can have with Bach’s cunning cross-rhythms and intricate counterpoint.

Müller-Schott shared this spirit, matching Hewitt precisely in articulation and relishing the companionship of knitting together a fugue, but he opted for a historically aware”, tonally timid and more or less vibrato-free style that rested uneasily with Hewitt’s modern Fazioli grand. There was a case here, perhaps, for opening out with a bit more lustre, but no such reservations attached to the rest of the programme.

Müller-Schott plays an early-18th-century Goffriller cello, with a distinctive, warmly aromatic, resinous timbre that came into its own as much in the pensive expressiveness and close thematic arguments of Beethoven’s F major Sonata Op 5 No 1 as in the sensuality and colour of Manuel de Falla’s Suite populaire espagnole. In a solo recital, Hewitt had played Beethoven’s D major Piano Sonata Op 10 No 3, with a centre of gravity in the slow movement but, in the faster ones, a beguiling freshness in the way that she shaped phrases and pointed up accents and dynamics.

This was true, too, of her partnership with Müller-Schott, with its lively interplay of ideas and its fine tailoring of ensemble. Just as in the Beethoven, so in César Franck’s A major Sonata there was a close artistic bond that was clear from their mutual delight in the music’s potent mix of lyricism, treacly harmonies and exuberance.”