In recital in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh

2004-11-01 / The Herald / Conrad Wilson

Bach, Bach and more Bach is what we expect of a piano recital by Angela Hewitt, but in her contribution to Edinburgh´s International Classics season last week, Bach formed the fountainhead rather than the total contents of her programme. Whether the substantial English Suite No 6, her chosen starter, counted as too much or not enough of a good thing was hard to say, however. The audience was one of the smallest yet for a concert series which has never been much of a crowd puller, and the promoters did their star pianist a disservice by distracting attention from her with a brashly illuminated logo to the left and right of the platform in which the world “Classics” was spelt with an apostrophe.
The Bach suite, at least, confirmed the evening´s serious intentions. Superbly played, without a hint of exhibitionism, it leapt into action with a prelude full of fine forward flow, flashing articulation and keen appreciation of its grandeur of scale. The succeeding dances were deftly characterised, the sarabande a dark pool of reflection, the gavottes full of wit, the final jig bursting with life. Bach on the piano seldom sounds better than this.
Nor, it must be said, does Mendelssohn, a pair of whose preludes and fugues emerged by artful programme planning as a gloss on the preceding Bach. Yet the spontaneity of the playing, the romance of the preludes, the surge of the fugues ensured that what we heard was Mendelssohn, not baroque pastiche. Through further sleight of hand, Faure´s sumptuous Theme et Variations and a gleaming account of Ravel´s Tombeau de Couperin completed a consistently enthralling evening.