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A Pianist in the Pantheon

Hong Kong
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall
05/01/2010 -  & May 2
Johann Sebastian Bach: Keyboard Concertos in G minor & F minor, BWV 1058 & 1056
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 27 in B-flat major & No. 20 in D minor, K. 595 & 466

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Angela Hewitt (Pianist and Conductor)

A. Hewitt (© Lorenzo Dogana)

None of the piano music aficionados would forget Angela Hewitt’s monumental recitals two years ago (see here and here), delivering Bach’s two volumes of complete Preludes and Fugues (read here and here for the reviews of the two recitals). Indeed, few performers can establish their reputation and gain a firm foothold by merely performing the music of a single composer, and Angela Hewitt is certainly amongst these rare performers. It does not mean that she only plays Bach’s music. On the contrary, Ms. Hewitt embraces a surprisingly wide scope of repertoire from Handel and Couperin to Chopin and Ravel (many people may not realize this). But there is one thing for certain - her name would have had a place in the pantheon even if she played nothing but Bach.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, Ms. Hewitt delivered keyboard concertos by Bach and Mozart respectively, rendering them in alternative order. She chose to open the concert with Bach’s G minor Concerto, transcribed from the composer’s own A minor Violin Concerto. It was an engrossing account which retained Ms. Hewitt’s trademark qualities – crystalline articulation, transparent tone, and tip-toe delicacy. It was a little out of expectation that her readings of the two Bach Concertos did not sound as expressive (or even romanticized) as the Prelude and Fugues. Notwithstanding, this more purified and consecrated Bach was equally enchanting as the personified one I heard two years ago. The famous Largo from the F minor Concerto, the movement she rendered as the last encore as well, was a telling exemplification of the pianist’s affection to the great composer. Hardly a note went by without Ms. Hewitt bringing thoughtful articulation and arching lyricism to the music.

A “modern” setting of piano concerto was adopted throughout the evening with the side of the piano facing the audience and the lid fully lifted up. Though there was no regular physical engagement between the soloist and the concertmaster, especially in the two Bach Concertos, their collaboration was intimate except some tiny mishaps in Mozart’s D minor Concerto. Ms. Hewitt found wonderfully felicitous inflection of dynamics that allowed the melodies of the orchestra and the piano to interchange raptly as dialogues. But sometimes the HKPO seemed not so much attuned to this intimate chamber setting: comparing to the soloist’s exquisite lines, the orchestra (particularly the strings) sometimes sounded stumbling and unceremonious.

Ms. Hewitt trenchantly demonstrated her versatile musicality by playing the two Mozart Concertos with utmost cogency. The B-flat major Concerto, written in the year of the composer’s death, was particularly spellbinding. She not only rendered the work with technical flawlessness, but also the profundity that can rarely be heard elsewhere. Unlike most pianists who emphasized Mozart’s simplicity and exuberance, Ms. Hewitt’s interpretation of the composer’s last written concerto exuded a sense of serene sorrow under the surface beauty. The last reprise of the main theme in the last movement was so heavenly peaceful and elegant that it almost evoked the composer’s otherworldly paradise. On the other hand, the intense emotional pathos in the D minor Concerto was somehow understated, though it still came across as a refined and idiosyncratic reading.

Angela Hewitt’s Website

Danny Kim-Nam Hui



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