Recital in Tel Aviv

2005-06-14 / Haaretz, Israel / Hagai Hitron

A Rare Musical Experience

Piano Recital: Angela Hewitt Performing Bach, Ravel, and Liszt. Tel Aviv Museum of Art

In the title above I wrote: A Musical Experience” and not “A Piano Performance Experience,” because Angela Hewitt’s approach yesterday was distant from demonstration of the capabilities of the instrument, from presentation of the wealth of colours and effects expected from it, and instead remained throughout at the level of content, in what is beyond method and technique.

The recital, as I see it, exceeded the well-grounded expectations among the admirers of this artist who are acquainted with her recorded performances. This was different and worthy of the following alternative descriptions: assertive playing, always flowing forward, uncompromising, projecting extreme decisiveness, occasionally approaching the limits of the possible from a technical point of view.

Hewitt began with the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue by Bach, and immediately astonished her listeners with her strong sound which deviates from the stereotypical “female” playing. The Fugue was soft relative to the Fantasy, but nonetheless quite stable with respect to dynamics and with no retreats to softness or delicacy, and certainly with no hint of sentimentality.

The Overture in the French Style of Bach, in the continuation, is one of my own very favorite partitas. Hewitt remained faithful to the line drawn earlier. No dance was treated as simply “pleasant;” all was by design, we may say even by declaration, communicating rare confidence in the message. This is integration before which we may sit only in wonder — even if here and there we may wish for (and not receive) more colour, more diversity, more exploitation of the richness of the piano.

All these characteristics, by the way, are assuredly to be found in Hewitt’s recorded performances, which evidently teaches us something about the difference between a live event and what is produced in the tens of “takes” in a recording studio: alongside the decisiveness, the spontaneity of the here-and-now happening is felt; for example, the fugue in the first movement went slightly out of control from a rhythmic point of view, as if the notes are rushing forward and not receiving their time.

The Ravel Sonata after the intermission was lovely, but faithful to the same style and the same discipline. Following this, the Piano Sonata in B Minor of Liszt was intoxicating. Hewitt played the stormy parts in actual confrontation with the limits of her technical capabilities (that these are not at all inconsiderable, would be an understatement). But these storms were not a demonstration of technical ability but rather of musical disclosure; while the songlike parts alongside did not overflow but, rather, were grasped and reflected upon in great depth. Few are the performances of this Sonata which are so fascinating. Only in the encore, a song (lied) arranged by Richard Strauss, did we hear a softness and warmth, and we were shown an additional facet of the artistry of this great pianist.

Translation: Judah Matras