In recital at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa

2002-10-06 / Ottawa Citizen / Richard Todd

Hewitt mastery a wonder to behold

Angela Hewitt’s reputation as a Bach pianist is so firmly set in area music lovers’ minds we often forget that she the programs she brings us normally are made up mainly of the works of other composers.

If anyone needed a reminder of how well she does non-Bach repertoire, her recital Friday night at the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall, provided it most convincingly.

There was no surprise in her choice of Ravel’s Sonatine, a work she has recently recorded and which she rendered with consummate delicacy and feeling on Friday.

Not every listener is likely to associate her with Liszt’s Sonata in B minor though those who heard her Friday probably will in the future. The richness, power and poetry of her playing were beyond praise. Without departing radically from traditional interpretations, she nevertheless brought an extra edge of wonder to this wondrous sonata.

As she does with so many things, she was able to express her own personality in the music without compromising the composer’s. In a performance of such consummate mastery, it can be hard to point out highlights, but few who heard it are likely to forget the perfection of her pianissimo phrasing.

It is hard to imagine an Angela Hewitt evening without any Bach. Friday’s program included the English Suite no. 6 in D minor and two of the keyboard toccatas. The Toccata in D, BWV 912 was nice enough, but lacked the focus of the rest of the program. The Toccata in E minor, BWV 914, arguably the better of the two, was much more effective.

Yet it was only in the English Suite no. 6 in D minor, BWV 811 that one was fully engaged by the transcendent mastery and illumination that Hewitt customarily brings to this most transcendent of composers. The Prelude was probably too quick and too pianistic to please purists, but for the rest of us it was a joy. The Sarabande was particularly beautiful in its sober alternations of shadow and light. And the two gavottes were brilliant in their contrasts, their formal beauty and the depth of imagination Hewitt brought to them.