Top critical review
24 people found this helpful
Bad Tempered Clavier
on 1 December 2010
I just don't get this playing. I've listened intently to every track - there are some occasional moments of 'creative' playing, but, on the whole, I feel that the playing distinctly lacks both voice and character.
The 48 are not all great works, and Hewitt has performed an admirable task in going through the motions of recording them. But I had to ask myself if she had anything special to give to the WTC, if she had 'new' ideas, if her playing projected such giving humanity that is was worth the effort of recording. The answer to each was, sadly, no, no and no.
It would be ridiculous to give a summary of each track, so overall comments will have to suffice. There was consistency here in that the whole lot sounded as if Hewitt was in a bad mood when she recorded them - there seems to be no love, despite all the wonderful claims made about her 'connection' with Bach's music (a connection I do not think she has - will review her 'Goldberg' shortly!). Each piece seemed po-faced, schoolmarm-like, as though Hewitt was playing for a college examination. Bach's monumental creative message never once shot out at me and, despite it being quite hard to make Bach sound bad, Hewitt manages to miss the message in each work. Where is the humour, the dance, the pathos, the agony, the struggle for resolution, the sense of fun, the sense of foreboding, the stillness and the empathy? It is absent in this playing, playing that reeks of narcissism, yet conveys no powerful message.
Perhaps Ms. Hewitt was trying to imitate a harpsichord - her indifference to tonal nuance seems to suggest so. Or maybe, as do so many 'purists', she believe that Bach sounds best when underplayed and dull-sounding. If so, then the recording is a success.
It is interesting that Hewitt sounded more at home in the slightly quicker works - although her finger-work does not ever 'shine' enough and her fast fugal playing loses sense of fugal logic.
All I ask for in Bach playing by modern Bach players is that they convey some of the magnificence and might of Bach's intentions: majesty, flow, pulse, meter, dynamic, sensitivity, delight and humanity. I think it may be time for Hewitt to go back to the drawing board.
Terribly upsetting playing of some of music's most magnificent works.