within a restricted range and there is no room for extraneous movement. You train the fingers but it’s all brainwork. We’re distracted by a million thoughts a second. When people cough during the performance it’s a disaster, and I know that if I catch myself thinking of something else that’s when I can go wrong. If you use the third finger instead of the fourth, it can all unravel.’
Given the unique set of challenges The Art of Fugue presents, I wondered if earlier recordings helped Hewitt find her point of entry? ‘I didn’t listen much, especially at the beginning, because I really wanted to find my own way through the score, working it out for myself. I didn’t even read an analysis at first and when I did read Tovey I was amused to see that he recommends performers do precisely that. It’s thrilling to find that No 11 is No 8 with the three subjects turned upside down. I listened to bits of recordings. I especially admired Alessandrini and his Baroque orchestra. He uses tempos very intelligently and there is a very nice flow for each fugue that highlights their different characters. Some of the others that I heard played on keyboard, whether piano or harpsichord, didn’t say much to me. I appreciated Glenn Gould playing No 1 at the slowest tempo you could ever imagine, and The Swingle Singers performing No 9. But otherwise I choose not to listen too carefully; it has to come from the score otherwise there’s a danger you end up with a mish-mash of everybody else.’
As we bring our own chattering lines to a close, Hewitt reveals that her life with Bach is not quite over yet. She’s learnt the Ricercar and Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering, and would like to re-record the Goldberg Variations; there are also various flute and violin sonatas to be mopped up. But next on her agenda is Scarlatti and various pieces by Liszt, including the B minor Sonata. They’ve sought Angela Hewitt out too. The word is out: she’s unpicked The Art of Fugue and now they all want to take a trip up the Northern Line to Belsize Park.
To read Gramophone’s review of Hewitt’s The Art of Fugue, turn to page 66
HEWITT PLAYS BACH Four of the best from Hewitt’s impressive back catalogue
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A R C H
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P H O T O G R A P H Y
French Suites Angela Hewitt pf Hyperion F b CDA67121/2 (2/96) ‘Even the most out-and-out purists who blanch at the thought of Bach on so alien an instrument will find it hard not to be won over by Angela Hewitt’s artistry.’ Lionel Salter
Goldberg Variations Angela Hewitt pf Hyperion F CDA67305 (4/00) ‘Her mastery of the keyboard is exemplary. In my view she has never made a better CD.
Strongly recommended.’ Rob Cowan
Keyboard Concertos Angela Hewitt pf Australian Chamber Orch / Richard Tognetti Hyperion F b CDA67607/8 (9/05) ‘Interpretative decisions are intelligently applied; and Hewitt is at her best in the slow movements, all of which are played with the finest sensibility.’ Nalen Anthoni
Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2 Angela Hewitt pf Hyperion F d CDA67741/4 (6/09) ‘Her interpretations haven’t changed so much as evolved, intensified and, most important, internalised.’ Jed Distler gramophone.co.uk
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