Recital in Denver

2003-02-06 / The Denver Post / Kyle MacMillan

Friends of Chamber Music

Pianist Hewitt captures essence of Bach

Thursday, February 06, 2003 – Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is highly esteemed among piano connoisseurs. But to borrow an old yet apt cliche, she just might be the best pianist so little known to the public.

Fortunately for Denver, the Friends of Chamber Music was well aware of her and wasted no time engaging her as a substitute Wednesday evening at Augustana Lutheran Church for the scheduled performer, John Browning, who recently died.

And Hewitt more than repaid their confidence in her, turning in a remarkably thrilling and moving concert, which will assuredly stand as one of the season’s most memorable.

The heart and soul of the program were the two first-half selections by Johann Sebastian Bach – English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807, and English Suite No. 4 in F major, BWV 809.

There is something incredibly exposed about playing the exceedingly direct yet highly elusive music of Bach. With no frills, no pyrotechnics to hide behind, the pianist is forced to confront it directly and unequivocally. And so Hewitt did.

She seemed to enter some higher realm as she took listeners on an interpretive journey that transcended mere excellence into something far more rewarding and profound.

So many aspects of Hewitt’s clear, natural playing could be praised – her perfectly suited tempos; effectively nuanced dynamics; honest, instinctive phrasing; and extraordinary ability to draw subtly different timbres from the piano to fit minute changes in mood and texture.

She captured the distinctive character of each of the works’ movements, from the snappy dance rhythms of the ending Gigue in Suite No. 2 to the delicate, deeply touching Sarabande in Suite No. 4.

As wonderful as the Bach works were, they were hardly the evening’s only treats. The second half opened with Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in A Flat Major, Op. 32, No. 2, and Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1.

Hewitt brought the same poetic touch and many of the other qualities so evident earlier to these pieces as well, creating many highlights, such as the gently elegant opening to the Op. 32 and compellingly dramatic climax of the darker Op. 48.