Recital in Birmingham

2004-10-05 / Birmingham Post / Christopher Morley

Bach was beautifully expressed

That we no longer recoil in prissy horror at the idea of Bach played on the piano is partly due to the achievements of two Canadian pianists, Glenn Gould and Angela Hewitt.

Hewitt’s recordings for Hyperion have won immense acclaim, and her presence in the concert hall is equally exciting.

Bach’s huge D minor English Suite was given with no precious attempt to disguise the expressive nature of this fine Steinway instrument. Instead Hewitt deployed both rubato and dynamic subtlety to add to the music’s already richly communicative armoury. Ornamentation was naturally assimilated into flowing melodic lines, figuration was fluent, and wit and poise enlivened the stylised dance movements.

To hear Hewitt in two Mendelssohn Preludes and Fugues was to enter another sound-world entirely. Clarity of voice-leading was obviously still paramount, but warm pedalling and full-blooded tone added their assistance in communicating riches from these little-known gems.

Also little-known is Faure’s Theme and Variations, beginning severely but moving through uncharacteristically fulsome sonorities; Hewitt’s thoughtful approach made one wish to hear her in Cesar Franck.

This Schumannesque piece gave place to the enthralling Humoreske by Schumann himself, with a loving delineation of the music’s shiftingly passionate moods. The same composer’s second Romanze made a cosy night-cap encore.