Review, Angela Hewit, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Wigmore Hall by James Ellis

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I was keen to attend a recital with Canadian legends Gerald Finley and Angela Hewitt for an excitable programme. Finley sadly, could not make it due to a bereavement. So this raised a question…what would be done instead?

Hewitt was up to the task by taking on the Golderg Variations as a very palatable alternate concert. Prior to playing, she spoke of the promise of doing something another time with Finley. We were amazed as we were informed she has been playing the Goldberg for 50 years, come 2025. She remains the gold standard of the piece, no doubt there are a select other few living, who could earn this title today.

Some might be deterred by and hour and half of piano, yet with Hewitt its remains a privilege and a pleasure. She brings so much to Variations, the opening Aria remains one of the finest things written in the keyboard repertoire (this was originally a harpsichord vehicle). It’s the personal touches throughout the epic journey that thrive. This is my second time seeing her do this, last time I recall she brought on stage a sparkly crutch. I can’t get enough really.

The travels are broad and Bach show’s us his genius with clever transposition of the Aria, new colours, mood, visions and energies burst out. Timeless music this has always been…further study into Bach and his creations can only broaden his intrigue and admiration. Hewitt brings her own inflections and posturings, moments of stillness are latter met with flare and style. In one instance, there appeared an almost emotional breakdown, though we wouldn’t blame her. The music has a complexity that still beguiles today. The faster movements are filled with plodding panache, the slower parts have a sincere retrospection.

After the panorama of depth, we return finally to the Aria once more. This has always been one of the most rewarding moments in the keyboard world. Those who may tire throughout, should find solace here. Hewitt knows the worth of this moment and we savour it at the conclusion.  This remained a heart felt silence which felt forever in the space.

I do hope to see her play in her special anniversary next year. It would be an honour. 

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