2005-09-30 / Albuquerque Journal / D. S. Crafts
The Year of the Pianist” was how Managing Director William Mullen introduced the new season of the Santa Fe Concert Association. Surely there could be no better way of commencing the series than with Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt who took the stage of the Lensic Theater for the Performing Arts Thursday night. Hewitt, who first became known for her sparkling recordings of J.S. Bach, chose a program spanning nearly the length of her prodigious talent, including Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Ravel.
Like all great interpreters, she can make each piece her own while never violating the essential spirit of the music. Take, for example, her first offering, No. 5 of Bach’s so-called “French” Suites. Each dance was imbued with a distinctly different musical personality—-a spritely Courante, a bouncing Bouree, and a Gigue with unbounded energy and pianistic color. If anyone had any doubts that the Sarabande movements of this set of works are among Bach’s most elevated music, Hewitt quickly informed them of that fact with a profoundly graceful rendition with near-mystical qualities.
The Beethoven Sonata in D, Op. 10 No. 3 caused her to switch gears, fully reflecting the mad passions of the youthful composer in one of his most accomplished early works. The Largo e mesto (Slow and sad), the heart of the work, rose from the keyboard like an enveloping dark mist, transporting us to another place, another time.
Hewitt impresses not with electrifying virtuosity (though she has resources to spare), but rather from sheer musical presence and an understanding of the music communicated with crystal clarity. Here is a pianist with something to say.
Following the break Hewitt announced from the stage two Preludes and Fugues from Mendelssohn’s Op. 35, namely the first in e minor and the fifth in f minor. Mendelssohn did more than anyone to rescue J. S. Bach from the obscurity he suffered his entire life, and it hardly surprising that he should pay homage to the master in this set of works. The music however, is far more Liszt than Bach, the e minor Prelude coming as a whirlwind of beautiful sound, capped off with a Fugue which in the end integrates a reference to “Ein’ feste Berg” (A mighty fortress), Bach’s most famous chorale.
For the final work Hewitt ended where she began, with a French suite. But this time a genuinely French suite, though seen through the eyes of the 20th century. Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin came like a sugar rush with its lusciously rich harmonies and, in fact, elicited some of Hewitt’s most sonorous playing of the evening. She performed, of course, the original 6-movement suite, as opposed to the abbreviated orchestral version.
A standing crowd cajoled her into returning to the stage to play Chopin, namely the Prelude Op. 28 in D-flat, nicknamed the “Raindrop” Prelude. The work proved as musically satisfying a conclusion to this marvelous concert as it was meteorologically topical.”