As we fast approach the Bach centenary year and the end of the millenium,
issues such as these take on a special sort of significance. I have recently
read a highly intriguing article on the absolute greatness of the legendary
Dinu Lipatti, probably the greatest Bachian interpreter of all time. Listening
to Angela Hewitt's magnificent playing in most of this revelatory set had
me appreciate the greatness and mastery that lies behind these compositions.
This is also a worthy release for Bach's anniversary year, which is fast
coming upon us. Hewitt also contributes some staggeringly detailed notes
that proceed to examine the pieces in detail and shed new light on the importance
of their structural nature. This is in keeping with Hyperion's recent ploy
of using the performer's themselves to write the booklet notes, surely making
us listeners all the more richer!
Indeed it is difficult for a reviewer to doubt such authority of interpretation
throughout. Angela Hewitt is a committed interpreter and throws everything
into the music as the opening flourish of the first Prelude demonstrate.
Listeners may be unaccustomed to the sound of a modern piano in Bach but
such is the unaffected mannerism and loyalty of Hewitt to the score that
such purist doubts pale into insignificance. She is at turns grand and ceremonial
in the Fifth, by nature pensive and thoughtful in the sublime Tenth or dashingly
debonair and full of flair in the dazzling fugues of the Second and Fourth
I took some time to get used to the complex quality of Bach's sublime inspiration
but as the music grew on me, I was reluctant to stop drinking in this effusive
mastery. Hewitt is obviously to be compared alongside such legends as Glenn
Gould and the same Lipatti in such repertoire. It is heartening and gratifying
to report that this unassuming and unaffected pianist is in no way outclassed
by such awesome names, rather her confident and assertive style lends itself
exclusively well to Bach's magnum opus for the keyboard. The second CD brings
even more delights and surprises. Here it is interesting to note that, save
for the 17th and 18th, Bach alternates major and minor
keys of the same tonality, no doubt and exercise in harmony.
After some close listening, I was absolutely enthralled by the rounded and
full sound which Hyperion get out of the Steinway, none more so than the
tantalizingly simple ending to the 16th fugue. Angela Hewitt is
definitely the top modern recommendation for this set of Bachian grandeur
and those who bought Volume 1 will certainly want to complete their set.
Many teachers hold these 48 Preludes and Fugues as the Bible of all piano
playing. With such a persuasive and talented guide as Angela Hewitt, the
art of learning becomes transcendental.