Angela Hewitt put off the "Art of Fugue"-until now. A Bach scholar says it was worth waiting for.

Nov 6, 2014

Dr. Uri Golomb
Credit uri-golomb.com

In an exclusive for IPR Classical, Israeli musicologist Uri Golomb reviews a milestone album by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, who started recording all of Bach's keyboard works in 1994. The resulting cycle won major acclaim and awards, but she says she "purposefully put off" Bach's final keyboard work, The Art of Fuguefor last. Now, 20 years in, its time has come - so how does she do? Over to Uri Golomb, who teaches at Tel Aviv University and wrote his doctoral thesis at Cambridge on Bach performance

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REVIEW BY URI GOLOMB:  Johann Sebastian Bach: The Art of Fugue - Angela Hewitt, piano (Hyperion CDA 67980)  
I had high expectations of Angela Hewitt's new recording of Bach's Art of Fugue; if anything, she surpasses them. The Canadian pianist gives the counterpoint all the clarity of texture it demands, yet her playing is also meticulously dramatic. I realize that those two last words may sound contradictory, but both apply. Hewitt's powerful sense of expression creates cumulative drama while also conveying an unerring sense of the music's inner patterns of tension and release. In her lucid and informative notes, Hewitt writes that her "learning process involved singing each voice in turn and marking in the breathing points—which come at different times in different voices. There is no escaping that if you want it to make musical sense." The results of this salutary effort are keenly felt in her thoughtful interpretation. The performance further gains from Hewitt's warm yet varied sonorities, beautifully captured by her producer and recording engineer, Ludger Böckenhoff.

In my 2006 article on The Art of Fugue, I cited Charles Rosen's recording as the finest on the modern piano, and I still consider it a marvelous achievement; but I now recommend Hewitt's version as at least its equal and possibly its superior. 

To learn more about this recording, and to purchase it, you can visit the album page on Hyperion's website.

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EXTRA: Angela Hewitt speaks about recording The Art of Fugue: