Sometimes, when you go to hear a concert it is the performer who is the star of the show. Take someone like the phenomenal Lang Lang, for example, with his high tech performances that have him approaching the keyboard almost as if it is a computer console. It is riveting and exciting and, almost no matter what he plays, it is worth it just to go and watch him.
Sometimes, though, as marvelous as the performer is, they are simply there to serve the music. Alfred Brendel was certainly like that. I have never heard a live performance of Maurizio Pollini but he has that reparation too. Add Angela Hewitt to the list.
This is not to suggest, in any way, that Angela Hewitt is not also technically superb. She is. In the final, Toccata movement of Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, with which she closed her Shriver Hall recital on Sunday evening (closing out the SHCS season), her hands were a blur given the velocity—to say nothing of the accuracy—of her playing. It was truly virtuosic, but not for the sake of being flashy. It was all in service to Ravel’s remarkable piece.
Angela Hewitt is known as a Bach specialist, having taken on the project of recording all his keyboard works. She is now working up his Art of Fugue for two London recitals in the upcoming seasons, and she gave us a snippet of “her labors” as she referred to them, playing Nos. 1—4. She also played Bach’s French Suite No. 5, with the final Gigue being another tour de force.
She opened her program with some of the gorgeous Francois Couperin Pieces de Calvecin, and also treated us to Gabriel Faure’s Theme et Variations in C-sharp Minor. (Notice how beautifully the program hangs together around French/Baroque music!) She is a still, quietly intense player—no flashy gyrations or anything like that—and her intent concentration in the music flows right through her body, to the extent that she looks different when she is playing Faure and Ravel from when she is playing Bach. She looks almost balletic in the French repertoire.
Angela Hewitt has an interesting News page on her website http://www.angelahewitt.com/index.php, which I like to follow from time to time. Unfortunatley, her Shriver Hall recital didn’t make it onto her News, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t give us her all!
Bach, chamber music, music, Ravel