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Complete Nocturnes And Impromptus, The (Hewitt) Hybrid SACD, SACD

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (1 Nov. 2004)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B00067FPBG
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,020 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Format: Audio CD
A fine set - Chopin's Nocturnes should perhaps only be listened to in groups of 3 or 4, but this complete survey (with the Impromptus thrown in) will satisfy the needs of most listeners, especially those with multi-channel capabilities.
I've enjoyed Maria Joao Pires' set on DG (on CD only, of course) for a few years, and comparisons with hers and Hewitt's are interesting. Pires' performances are well recorded, and her interpretations are 'straighter' than Hewitt's - which is not to suggest they are dull, far from it - but I do have a slight preference for Hewitt's performances which I find more interesting for repeated listening. Her choice of rubato is very idiomatic and she manages to make even the most well-known works here, like the op.9 set, sound fresh. Artistically this competes with the very best available - Claudio Arrau on Philips is my favourite of older recordings, but Hewitt must be among the very best of recent years.
Sonically this is a slightly different sound-picture to Pires' DG set. Hyperion have recorded Hewitt in the German venue that Philips used for Brendel's later Schubert recordings, and this mirrors the nicely reverberant, warm aural image in those Philips recordings from the 1980s.
This venue sounds like a moderately-sized concert hall, whereas the Pires set sounds like it was recorded in a more intimate venue. But those fearing a maelstrom of reverberation and the problems associated with recording in empty halls need not worry: the piano is nicely focused within the acoustic and is vivid with plenty of presence, and has an attractive sound 'halo' around it.
This sounds very pleasing in multi-channel when played at a reasonable level; the set loses some impact if played as soothing background, perhaps as late-night listening.
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Format: Audio CD
Angela Hewitt is known to most of us primarily for her exquisite Bach. She grew up, as the daughter of a professional organist hearing Bach constantly and her obvious talent for baroque music seems as natural as breathing for her, although that is not to say that she hasn't thought out her performances of Bach's work to the last scintilla of control. But frankly I had not ever considered her for the Romantic literature. But here she is playing some of the most romantic piano music there is, Chopin's Nocturnes, and although her approach is classical in approach -- no grand-standing, no huffing and puffing, no swooning -- the romance comes through. One of the marvels of Hewitt's playing is that one can sit back and be ravished by her unfailingly gorgeous tone without having to think necessarily of the intellect behind the playing. But on close attention to the events of her playing one hears a clear, unclouded intellect at work through her fingers. She has 'the gift go be simple', so often the mark of a major player; simplicity isn't that easy to achieve in music. She focuses on the long line, as she describes it in her excellent booklet notes, the linearity of the abounding counterpoint -- she reminds us that Chopin made a long and thorough study of Bach and felt it was the basis of any serious musician's toolbox. Her rhythm is utterly controlled but with a natural-sounding rubato that is never willful or clunky, as so often is heard. Her left hand, so often relegated to neglected accompanimental doings by some players, is fully the equal of the right, another mark of a major player.
Nocturnes by their very nature are gentle, introspective, warm, consoling, and that is precisely what we get here.
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