Review: Angela Hewitt Plays Bach at The Wallis

February 24, 2020 | By | Category: Classical Music and Opera
Angela Hewitt performs at The Wallis. / Photo by Kevin Parry

The famed interpreter of the keyboard music of Bach, Angela Hewitt performed an all Bach recital in the Bram Goldsmith Theater of The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday evening.

In 2016, Hewitt began her “Bach Odyssey,” a series of 12 recitals all over the world in which she is performing the complete keyboard works of Bach. The recital in Beverly Hills on Sunday was the first of the 11th in the series that she will take on the road for the next couple of months before she begins the last leg of the journey with Bach’s “The Art of the Fugue” BWV 1080. The four-year journey ends on July 2 in London. Odyssean, indeed.

As Hewitt told the crowd of Bach enthusiasts on Sunday, the 11th in the series includes pieces that didn’t fit in the other 10 recitals. This was evidenced in the first half of the recital which included some odds and ends, such as the Four Duets, BWV 802-805—which aren’t really duets, but rather pieces like the two-part inventions—and Eighteen Little Preludes, BWM, 924-928, 930, 933-938, 939-943, 999. Hewitt concluded the first half with another fairly obscure and fairly late piece, the Fantasia and Fugue in F major, BMW 971, that is mostly a monstrous perpetual motion fugue.

Hewitt devoted the second half of the recital to two much larger-scale works, the French Overture, BWV 831 and the popular Italian Concerto, BWV 971. She concluded with an encore of a transcription of “Sleepers Awake” by the late German pianist Wilhelm Kempff.

It was apparent from the first notes of the recital that we were in the presence of a Bach master, even if Hewitt’s reputation hadn’t preceded her. In all the pieces, she maintained a balance of melody and harmony between the left and right hands, sometimes switching from moment to moment, that was stunning. On the one hand, the technical aspects of Bach are almost machine-like, and Hewitt’s control was superb, especially considering that she was not playing on her prized custom-made Fazioli concert grand piano which had been accidentally destroyed her by movers in Berlin a few weeks ago. (When asked by an audience member in a talk before the recital about playing the Bach recital on a Steinway, she replied that she had been in Los Angeles for a few days practicing on a friend’s Steinway. If there were any differences in sound, however, only Hewitt could tell.) On the other hand, to make Bach’s music not sound machine-like, the performer must imbue it with just the right dynamics to create an interesting musical story. Hewitt did this to perfection.

Hewitt played with an energy and precision that was breathtaking. And it was apparent that playing Bach for her is joyful.

Those in attendance at The Wallis on Sunday evening were taken on their own personal journey by Hewitt and treated to a special evening of the keyboard music of Bach played by one of the world’s great interpreters, all in an intimate setting.

—Henry Schlinger, Culture Spot LA

For information about upcoming concerts and events at The Wallis, visit https://thewallis.org. For information on Hewitt’s Bach Odyssey, visit https://angelahewitt.com/bach-odyssey/.

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