Angela Hewitt

Piano Music by Emmanuel Chabrier

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Anyone with a passing awareness of her wonderful recordings for Hyperion knows that Angela Hewitt is one of the world's leading interpreters of Bach, and that she's no slouch in recording works by Chopin, Couperin, Messiaen, and Ravel, either. Add to this distinguished roster the name of Emmanuel Chabrier, whose keyboard works Hewitt recorded in 2004, and rendered with as much technical polish and expressive depth as anyone could lavish on them. Whether or not such light and sometimes inconsequential piano music deserves special treatment, Hewitt is unstinting in her musicality, and she delivers colorful, idiomatic readings of these late nineteenth century miniatures that arguably make them sound better than they really are. All will agree that Hewitt's sensitivity and skill are beyond dispute and that this program is an excellent showcase for her astonishing abilities; it is only secondarily of interest because of Chabrier's music, which tends toward mildly picturesque vignettes at best and shallow parlor novelties at worst. In the former category are the late pieces, Aubade (1883), Habanera (1885), and Bourrée fantasque (1891), which exude sophistication and dry wit, and seem slightly ahead of their time; also worth hearing for their charming modern qualities are the posthumously published Ballabile, Caprice, and Feuillet d'album (all 1897). Something of a mixed bag is Dix pièces pittoresques (1881), which are character sketches and dances in a pretty salon style, but most are melodically trite, harmonically predictable, and emotionally superficial. The earliest works offered, the Impromptu (1873) and the Ronde champêtre (ca. 1870), are less compelling, except perhaps for a few eccentric harmonies and rhythms that vaguely anticipate Ravel; little else recommends them except their period color. So fans of Angela Hewitt will rejoice that she performs here with her usual brilliance and panache, but they may feel a little less jubilant about her choice of repertoire this time out. Hyperion's recording, however, is sublime in every way.

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