2005-04-06 / Salt Lake Tribune / Robert Coleman
The term virtuoso” is overused: Anyone with reasonably good technical facility and expressiveness seems to garner the honor.
When someone of truly remarkable ability comes along, this tired description no longer seems to match. Pianist Angela Hewitt proved Monday that she has risen to that level.
Hewitt, the final guest in this season’s University of Utah School of Music-sponsored Virtuoso Series, almost didn’t appear. Illness forced the cancellation of her original performance date. Fortunately, she agreed to squeeze in her Salt Lake City appearance during the same week she will play New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
The pianist, known as an early-music specialist, particularly with the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, opened the concert with the composer’s “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.”
Her sparse use of the sustaining pedal and sensitive touch created music of extraordinary clarity. The Fazioli concert grand piano responded with resonance and expansive tone color – something the keyboard instruments of Bach’s era could not produce.
Hewitt’s luminous interpretation and flawless technique revealed Bach with the freshness of a first hearing. She often lifted her head, eyes dancing skyward, shaping joyous musical lines.
She followed with Bach’s “French Overture,” dominated by dance movements. Exquisite tenderness was on display throughout the somber Sarabande.
The recital’s second half featured François Couperin’s rarely performed “Treisieme Ordre.” Couperin’s phrases often end with lacy flourishes, contrasting with Bach’s more purposeful style. A movement titled “A Soul in Torment” ended the work with unexpected darkness and melancholy.
The final selection, Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin (Couperin’s Tomb),” was written by the bitterly disappointed composer because he didn’t qualify for military service during World War I. Instead, he volunteered to care for the wounded. “Le Tombeau” was written in honor of the fallen soldiers in his care. Hewitt gave the music extraordinary freedom with spacious rubato and boundless exuberance.”