Saturday, February 23, 2013

Angela Hewitt Review

Angela Hewitt
Chicago Symphony Center
February 10, 2013. 3:00pm

•French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817
•Toccata in D Major, BWV 912

•Pour le piano


•French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816

•Le tombeau de Couperin

•Debussy: Claire de Lune

This evening was the third time I saw Angela Hewitt. I saw her once at the 2002 Gilmore Keyboard festival where she played the Bach Goldberg Variations. I saw her play them again in 2009 in Chicago and tonight I saw her play Bach, Debussy and Ravel. I was pleased.

She revealed and reveled in the same enchanting things I enjoy in her recordings and in her live performance: delicate care of phrases, outstanding clarity, tight and well chosen coloring and definitive climaxes. It was there. It was all there. Several times during the performance I thought to myself, "Screw editing, this could be recorded live and sent straight to disk, she sounds so polished!". About the only thing that detracted from her performance was her extravagant keyboard gestures.

The short of my observation is that I think she has gradually become more extravagant over the last 10 years. Now, while I excoriated another pianist for outlandish gesturing in another review, I don't denigrate Ms. Hewitt because to me, at that time, on that day, from where I was sitting, her antics didn't bother me. Perhaps it's because the character of her movements seemed to fit with her concert manner; Her entire demeanor coming to and from the piano was one of tremendous confidence, daresay regality, and there was something about her composure which, even though I found it amusing, afforded me the ability to forgive her the distraction.

About the only chink in her armor came at about the middle of the last movement on the program, during the Ravel Toccata; the tautness waned, and there was a subtle but undeniable weakening of her her playing. The change was so sudden and slight that I can only imagine that something which had nothing to do with her playing was at work–like a carbohydrate crash, or something.  When she finished the piece and I looked at her face, I could see that I wasn't the only person who was unpleasantly surprised. Alas, to err is human, and I'm glad I went.

Perhaps one day I'll figure out how to approach and comfort a performer after an unsatisfying (to them) performance. Maybe I'll figure it out while I'm waiting for a fourth opportunity to hear her.

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