Recital in Calgary

2012-02-17 / Calgary Herald / Kenneth Delong

Honens International Piano Competition presents: Angela Hewitt, piano Rozsa Centre The University of Calgary

At this point in her illustrious career, Angela Hewitt has clearly risen to the top echelon as a con-cert pianist, her recordings of Bach’s keyboard music international benchmarks, with her other discs fleshing out a career that has embraced a wide range of other music as well.

Her appearance under the auspices of the Honens International Piano Competition as the mentor-to-be of the winner of the 2012 competition drew a capacity audience to the Rozsa Centre on Thursday night – and Hewitt did not disappoint.

Performing a program of Bach and Ravel, Hewitt enchanted her audience through her extremely poised, articulated playing, her charm, and (when needed) her bravura. Above all, her playing displayed the best possible musical manners, what in the 18th-century was the highest praise one could bestow: good taste.

The first half contained two dance suites by J.S. Bach, framing the Toccata in D major. As magical as the dance suites were, it was the toccata that made the strongest impression, the fugal sections played with rare understanding and the freer, quasi-improvised parts filled with imagination and drama.

The two suites, the first French Suite and the second English Suite, are works intermediate students often play as a break from the inevitable preludes and fugues. But this was no student playing; rather it was a demonstration of musical imagination of the highest order.

The two Ravel works that composed the second half – the Sonatine and Le tombeau de Couperin – showed Ravel to be the musical jeweller that he evidently was. All that is Ravel is, like 12-year-old Scotch, distilled into the few pages that make up the Sonatine. The final two movements, in particular, were some of the finest Ravel playing I have heard live.

The Tombeau, a dance suite like the Bach works on the first half, joined the worlds of the 18th-and early 20th-centuries. Playing on a sumptuously beautiful Fazioli piano, Hewitt gave the movements a wistful, nostalgic beauty, avoiding pianistic heaviness and emphasizing the music’s melodic elements and characterful rhythm.

Hearing Hewitt reminds us of what can be accomplished as musical communication when the concentration is absolute and the imagination and fingers are on fire.