French Suite in C minor, BWV813
French Suite in B minor, BWV814
Nocturne in A flat, Op.32/2; Waltz in G flat, Op.70/1; Mazurka in D, Op.33/2; Mazurka in C, Op.67/3; Prelude in A, Op.28/7; Waltz in C sharp minor, Op.64/2; Grande valse brillante, Op.18
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 6 June, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Angela Hewitt is more frequently associated with the music of Bach than of Chopin, but this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert brought the two together in a carefully constructed programme. Chopin himself spoke in reverential tones of the elder composer, describing him as “like an astronomer … who finds the most wonderful stars.”
Hewitt chose two of Bach’s intimate French Suites. In the B minor work she found a beautiful calm in the ‘Sarabande’, as well as enjoying relative freedom in the ‘Allemande’. The ‘Anglaise’, a more obscure dance-form rarely found in Bach, benefitted from sensitive ornamentation and a light touch. By taking a relatively relaxed approach to the tempos of each movement she was able to push home determinedly the rhythms of the ‘Gigue’, dancing energetically to its conclusion. The C minor Suite was also well played but felt a little stiff at times, particularly in negotiating the mordents in the ‘Gigue’. These felt constricted in comparison to the strident ‘Courante’, Hewitt sitting stock still as she played but bringing out with impressive clarity the syncopations of the left-hand’s ascent up the scale.
The Chopin selection took as its inspiration the pieces orchestrated by Glazunov and his contemporaries for the ballet Les Sylphides, focussing largely on music in triple time. Hewitt set out her approach with the A flat Nocturne from Opus 32, seemingly a change as the accompanying programme note went into detail about the first of the set, which was not played. While technically excellent, Hewitt approached Chopin in a calculated, studied manner, rubato sensibly applied if contrived (but more successful in the Grande valse brillante, the pianist enjoying the thematic ripostes before racing to a thrilling close). There was not always spontaneity evident in the swing of the G flat Waltz, but the two mazurkas – ‘straighter’ than some of the composer’s wilder interpretations of the dance – were nicely done, particularly a humorous and well-judged climb to the end of the Opus 33 example. The short but poignant A major Prelude benefitted greatly from Hewitt’s restrained approach, its intimacy all the more searching, while the Waltz from Opus 64 was light on its feet with appropriate flashes of humour. Following Opus 18 Hewitt retained a triple meter and the key of E flat with the second of the Opus 9 nocturnes as a graceful encore.