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Bach: Italian Concerto & French Overture CD
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Angela Hewitt's recordings of J S Bach's keyboard works are rapidly being seen as the definitive modern survey on the piano. Such is her natural affinity for Bach's style, her aliveness to his dancing rhythms and her sensitive use of the modern instrument, that she is the natural successor to a prestigious line of great Bach pianists. This disc includes works from the second and third volumes of Bach's Clavierübung (Keyboard Practice). In the Italian Concerto and French Overture Bach demonstrates not only his skill as translating to the keyboard two of the most popular orchestral genres of the time, but also his natural assimilation of their respective national characteristics, while remaining true to his own style. These are among his happiest inspirations. The Italian Concerto brims with joyous thematic invention and allusions to solo and orchestral contrasts, while the French Overture (often called a Partita) is a lively dance suite. The Four Duets, rather like more mature Two-part Inventions, and the youthful Capriccios complete a sunny and inspirational disc.
Until I heard Angela Hewitt's marvellous record, my two favourite versions of Bach's Italian Concerto, for very different reasons, were by Artur Schnabel and Rosalyn Tureck. I loved his muscularity and his frisky sense of celebration; I admired her marmoreal perfection. Hewitt combines the best of both worlds, and adds a host of other qualities into the bargain. Clarity and precision are pressed into the service of the most natural-sounding spontaneity; gorgeous cantabile with exuberantly muscular warmth. And after scaling the Bachian peaks for Hyperion--the Partitas, the Goldbergs, the 48--she has now turned her attention to some of his most unjustly neglected works. As her own erudite liner notes make clear, she's under no illusions about Bach's programmatic little "Capriccio on the departure of his beloved brother", but she makes the best possible case for our taking the Four Duets--in effect, two-part inventions--and the French Overture in B minor very seriously indeed. It's bliss to find things both unfamiliar and magnificent, and doubly so when so finely played. Part of the alchemy lies in the way she induces her big Steinway to sound like a harpsichord. --Michael ChurchSee all Product description
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In the opening Italian piece, Hewitt does great justice to Bach's tribute to the Italian concerto style with a convincing "dialog" between lighter solo episodes (tutti) and the fuller passages imitating orchestral effect (ritornello) - all on one keyboar of course. This piece is most famous for the adagio which Hewitt infuses with much heart and soul by her delicate, thoughtful melodic lines that never approach over sentimentality. The main event of this CD must certainly be the monumental "French Overture" (aka: Partita in B minor) - a grand conception lasting some 30 minutes repleat with numerous movements of French courtly dance influence and rich in imaginative and decorative keyboard effects. Miss Hewitt wonderfully articulates these effervescent rhythms with supreme confidence and masterful result. Her ornamentations are always tasteful, seamlessly integrated and truly enthralling to hear. In the off-beat rhythms of the gigue, her semiquavers bounce off the page with great poise and the crispness of fresh-pressed linen. And she shows her masterful pianism to its fullest in the curious final "echo" movement, bringing an brilliant, orchestral quality to it.
Hiding in the shadows of these two main events are four charming little "duets." These are no mere "fillers" but delightfully catchy, two-part inventions that Hewitt plays to full effect. Rounding out the program is a most unique "program music" piece by Bach thought written around the story of his older brother's departure ("Capriccio on departure of his brother"). In it, Angela Hewitt communicates both its nostalgic sentiments with her gentle, poinant phrasing and dynamics along with the piece's festive celebratory ending with her effective creation of trumpet and horn effects. A wonderful range of emotive effects in one piece.
Her carefree yet tight-on-the-rails style truly seems to bring out the best of Bach's keyboard treasures - transforming them into music of great vitality and charm. Her approach to Bach is one of artistry, nuance and good taste (not unlike Schiff) but without the "directness" or the "rough edges" that can be found in other performer's approaches (Gould and Gulda, respectfully). The many great Bach performers through the last decades have given us many "pallates of color" to experience, and Hewitt's colors are most notably beauty of tone, a poetic flavor, and graceful fluidity of line at its heart.
Angela Hewitt has been heralded as "the premier Bach pianist of this generation" in part for her ability to convey the music of J.S. Bach with exuberance, clarity and authority. Just about any recording of Bach's keyboard music by Angela Hewitt is a safe bet for being among the top choices available, and this CD is certainly no exception. It received the highest marks from both Gramaphone and Penguin Guides while ClassicsToday gave it a perfect 10/10 for Artisty/Sound Quality. In all her Bach recordings from Hyperion, the sound quality of this recording is among the fullest and most realistically recorded (where some other recordings like her Couperin, WTC or French Suites are done with a touch more "spaciousness" but still with clarity). Also a highlight are the scholarly and detailed notes delineating the nuances of the various "dance" types that Bach encorporated into his compositions. In all, an emmensely satisfying recording from a top Bach pianist of our time. Highly recommended.
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