Angela Hewitt (piano)
rec. 26-30 November 2020, Kulturstiftung Marienmunster, Germany
HYPERION CDA68341 [75:57]
Angela Hewitt has a fine reputation of long standing. That said, this is my first experience of her playing. I’ve not received her CDs previously for review and there’s no opportunity to hear her recordings on streaming as Hyperion do not have their discs on sites such as Spotify. This is understandable but a shame, especially as hearing a CD as excellent as this, would surely lead listeners to purchase. Her Love Songs is a perfectly sublime record built around a beautiful selection and is marvellously played and recorded. If you haven’t already bought it, and I know it’s been well received, then I highly endorse doing so.
The tone of the recital is set by the apt cover painting “Portrait of Catherine Vlasto” who has her fingers lingering on the piano. The painting, by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) who painted around 900 oils and - which is often more difficult - over 2,000 watercolours, was one of the artists introduced to me by my late mother. She had sung in The Bach Choir. Music and art seem to go together, as do great books, films and plays. The featured painting epitomizes the “Golden Age” of Edward VII before the “old order” was devastated by the Great War. The piano, a Bechstein, was Singer Sargent’s own and is entirely appropriate to Angela Hewitt’s selection. It takes us back to a world now seen in jerky black and white film but to it Hewitt brings colour.
The parallel with art continues with the selection of transcriptions. I liken them to paintings in an art gallery; each piece has individual qualities but the selection makes up a greater whole. I don’t usually advocate listening to the entirety of such recitals in one go, but in this case it communicates as a concept, not just a collection of transcribed songs. As Ms Hewitt points out in her inspired notes, the idea for this recital originated twenty or more years ago. It was the COVID
pandemic and the cancellation of concerts that lead her to prepare and record this disc. This is, I think, the third recent CD I’ve reviewed where the epidemic has been the igniting cause. As music to inspire us through these dreadful times I doubt that this one could be improved upon.
Highlights are many but I love everything and will have the disc close to hand for personal enjoyment and also to play to family and friends. I keep returning to the Gluck. I first heard it, like so many favourite pieces, as the introductory music for a radio play on the Home Service/Radio 4 in the late 1960s. Her arrangement of the Mahler Adagio is entirely successful and my son loved Schubert/Liszt Ständchen, a late piece from the short-lived Schubert. The fun element comes towards the end with the Grainger ‘take’ on Gershwin’s Love walked in with magnificent twiddling keys. The poignant - I had an Irish grandmother from Belfast - melody of Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) concludes this generously filled CD.
They say it’s an ill wind; well the tragic pandemic has inspired Angela Hewitt to provide us with this delightful and very humane cornucopia. I do hope to have the opportunity of hearing more from her. I have her Beethoven Variations (review by Dominy Clements) and these are works that I’m most fond of and which I hope to review in due course. Meanwhile, I will enjoy hearing this selection during the coming months.
David R Dunsmore
1. Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856), arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Liebeslied ‘Widmung, von Robert Schumann’ S566 [3:53]
2. Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856), arr. Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938) Du bist wie eine Blume (No.24 of Myrthen, Op 25) [1:48]
3. Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856), arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Frühlingsnacht – Lied von Robert Schumann S568 [3:12]
4. Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828), arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Ständchen ‘Leise flehen’ (second version) (No.7 of Schwanengesang – Vierzehn Lieder von Franz Schubert, S560) [6:03]
5. Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828), arr. Gerald MOORE (1899-1987) An die Musik D547 [2:44]
6. Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949), arr. Walter GIESEKING (1895-1956) Freundliche Vision (No.1 of Fünf Lieder, Op.48) [3:20]
7. Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949), arr. Max REGER (1873-1916) Morgen! (No.4 of Vier Lieder, Op.27) [3:52]
8. Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949), arr. Max REGER (1873-1916) Nachtgang (No.3 of Drei Lieder, Op.29) [3:00]
9. Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949), arr. Max REGER (1873-1916) Allerseelen (No.8 of Acht Lieder aus Letzte Blätter, Op.10) [3:19]
10. Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949), arr. Max REGER (1873-1916) Cäcilie (No.2 of Vier Lieder, Op.27) [2:37]
11. Christoph Willibald, Ritter von GLUCK (1714-1787), arr. Wilhelm KEMPFF (1895-1991) Orpheus’ lament; Dance of the blessed spirits [4:40]
12. Gottfried Heinrich STÖLZEL (1690-1749), arr. Angela HEWITT (b.1958) Bist du bei mir [2:54]
13. Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911), arr. Angela HEWITT (b.1958) Adagietto: Sehr langsam (Movement IV of Symphony No.5 in C sharp minor) [8:16]
14. Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Våren (No.2, ‘Last spring’ of Two Elegiac Melodies, Op.34) [3:54]
15. Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Ich liebe dich Op.41 No.3 [3:05]
16. Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924), arr. Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961) Nell Op.18 No.1 [1:59]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946), arr. Ernesto HALFFTER (1905-1989):
Siete canciones populares españolas: 17. No.3: Asturiana [2:22]; 18. No.4: Jota [3:10]; 19. No.5: Nana [1:48]; 20. No.6: Canción [1:12]; 21. No.7: Polo [1:34]
22. George GERSHWIN (1898-1937), arr. Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961) Love walked in [3:55]
23. Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961), arr. Alexander SILOTI (1863-1945) Irish tune from County Derry [3:11]