Angela Hewitt

Bach: The English Suites

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Angela Hewitt's performances of Bach's English Suites must rank among the finest piano renditions since Glenn Gould recorded them in the early '70s. In this 2003 release from Hyperion, Hewitt rivals Gould in thoughtfulness, profound musicality, and boldness, and she may even have an edge over him since her distinctive playing has none of the idiosyncrasies that made Gould controversial. Meticulous without being mechanical, brisk without sounding busy, deeply emotional without emoting, and unafraid of producing a rich sound when needed, Hewitt imbues the suites with vivacity, color, and warmth. Her firm but sensitive touch contributes in large measure to her success. Yet even greater factors are her fertile imagination and her intellectual grasp of the pieces' textures, contours, and varied characters, all of which she convincingly translates into the piano's medium. Especially noteworthy is Hewitt's use of ornamentation as a rhythmic element, since she often uses trills and mordents to propel the music forward. This double disc engages the listener from beginning to end because Hewitt's conceptions are always fresh and surprising, and one can only marvel how inventive she is over the album's 144 minutes. The Hybrid SACD recording is exceptional, capturing the piano's full range at an ideal level, and the performer's presence is almost palpable.

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