That Angela Hewitt is a brilliantly talented pianist is beyond reproach, yet her ability to articulate with stunning accuracy each voice of Bach's compositions forms arguably the greatest strength and greatest flaw of this recording
For whilst Miss. Hewitt (unlike her Canadian predecessor Glenn Gould) opts to adopt a singing, cantabile tone for the majority of the preludes and fugues in this four-disc set, more often than not the prescriptive, hammering out of each fugue subject obfuscates the most important aspect of Bach's composition; his mastery of counterpoint. In the best cases (usually in the works for which slower tempi have been adopted) Angela's subtle use of contrasting dynamics between voices is wonderfully effective, evoking the sense of vocal part-writing sometimes overlooked by Gould's recordings. In the worst instances, her oftentimes Romanticising instinct totally obscures the counterpoint underlying a distractingly emphasised fugue subject; her use of dynamic contrast has a tendency to become prescriptive, ruining what for me is the most transcendent aspect of these compositions - the counterpoint itself, in which no one voice is ever more important than another, their equal interaction and synthesis the keystone of Bach's craft. In the worst instances, Angela's style of performance makes me wonder if I'm still listening to Bach, rather than some obscure piano work by Schubert.
In short, if it is Bach's song-like melodies that delight you, you will love this recording. If however you prefer the logical satisfaction that the interplay of each finely-wrought contrapuntal line provides, Hewitt's performances are likely to disappoint - get a good harpsichord recording if you can, or try David Korevaar's more sympathetic piano rendition.