Saturday, October 13, 2007

Angela Hewitt Plays Bach

Last night I was at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley to hear Angela Hewitt's marathon recital of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II. It was the last of 3 demanding Bach recitals she gave this week. Hewitt is yet another highly touted, frequently recorded performer that I had never heard before. This recital was well attended by a very committed audience. The people seated on both sides of me attended all 3 of her recitals. "Bach World Tour" t-shirts were on sale. Hewitt is tall & slender & looks really good at the piano.

Yet I have my doubts. There's a sort of undulating movement to her playing, but I was often unsure how she meant to articulate a given theme, even though I had plenty of opportunities to hear her play it. I'd hear the theme once & think there was a crescendo in it. Then I'd hear it again & think, no, she's being equally emphatic with each note. It would come around again, & I would think that maybe she was doing a slight crescendo then dropping off. This vagueness was also evident in the way that pieces ended. Usually Hewitt would do a slight ritard & hold the last chord, but the length of time she held the chord always felt arbitrary to me. I felt like the musical ideas were not clearly stated, & the result was a kind of aimlessness.

I don't want to be totally negative, though. Hewitt performed an impressive physical feat with seeming ease. She even looked good turning her own pages. She exudes an aura of fitness. & we in the audience got to hear some of the best music ever written.

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