Friday, December 4, 2009

Angela Hewitt and the Goldberg Variations

My husband and I went to hear Angela Hewitt play Bach's Goldberg Variations at Strathmore last night. What can I say about this except that it was a great concert? How often do you get the chance to hear a musician in her prime perform a major work that she knows inside and out? I will just comment with a few observations and leave the detailed analyses to those more expert than I.

We splurged on front orchestra seats on the keyboard side, so I had a clear view of the pianist's hands, body language, facial expressions, and even feet (though these were obscured somewhat by her long gown). The piano was a surprising Fazioli; I've only seen Steinways at this hall. We were wondering if this is a preferred piano for Hewitt, given her connection with Italy (she has a home there and spends summers running a music festival in Umbria, according to the program notes). The Fazioli did sound wonderful: so clear and smooth, without the boomy bass of the typical Steinway.

My husband remarked on how Hewitt moved her hands -- like dancers, especially in virtuosic passages that involved lots of leaps and cross-hand playing. She seemed to play without tension and with enjoyment, always producing a rich, full sound from the piano.

Hearing this made me want to play! This piece, of course (maybe one of these days), but just about anything else as well. Someone like Hewitt makes it seem like the simplest thing in the world: Just learn the music and play it -- no problem! And then I go home and slave over a couple of measures of a fugue, without quite getting it. Sigh. But just trying is worth it.

I was impressed that this large concert hall was almost full and that the audience listened with rapt attention for the almost hour and a half of the piece, with no intermission. There is at least enough civilization left for that to happen.


Just adding: There was a rather grumpy review in the Washington Post that did not reflect my experience as a listener. The reviewer also gave a pedantic title to the encore, which was in fact an arrangement (I believe the famous one by Myra Hess) of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" from Cantata 147.

Music review

No comments: