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Valentine’s Day performance a success for Hewitt

Observer Scene | Thursday, February 16, 2006

Although not strictly Romantic in the classical sense, Angela Hewitt’s piano concert Tuesday was still appropriate enough for Valentine’s Day.

Featuring a selection that included pieces by Bach, Couperin and Ravel, the recital -held in the Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts – engagingly demonstrated Hewitt’s considerable skill.

These skills have brought Hewitt considerable critical acclaim. A musician since she was a toddler, the Canadian-born pianist has honed her talent over the years, performing throughout Asia, Europe and America. She has played with the London Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Among her recordings are works by Chopin, Couperin and Bach. Her piano versions of Bach’s work in particular have brought her attention and acclaim, as the piano was never considered the primary instrument for his work. Most of his compositions were intended for chamber orchestra, organ or harpsichord, which makes her piano interpretations revelatory in a way. Though Bach has been played on piano before, Hewitt’s recordings of his complete solo keyboard concertos are quickly becoming standards within the classical music world.

The concert itself was a success, though rather long – with intermission and encore it lasted over two hours. Hewitt’s musicality and occasional burst of showmanship, coupled with the undeniable genius of the music itself, rarely let the performance drag. Though piano recitals aren’t exactly known for their pyrotechnics, Hewitt’s stylistic tendencies (one-handed, hand-over-hand) were without doubt fun to watch. The Leighton Concert Hall itself added to the show, as the acoustics gave the music a wonderfully grandiose grace.

The featured selections by Johann Sebastian Bach were “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903” and “Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV 828.” The movements in “Partita” were “Ouverture (Allegro),” “Allemande,” “Courante,” “Aria,” “Sarabande,” “Meneut” and “Gigue.” Though lesser-known compositions by the legendary Baroque genius, Hewitt’s piano performance brought them to life. Hearing Bach’s work on piano was indeed as unique as might be expected, but Hewitt’s unparalleled musicianship made it sound natural.

Following the intermission, Hewitt played “Treizieme Ordre” by Francois Couperin, who was a French contemporary of Bach. The piece was in five movements – “Les Lis naissans,” “Les Rozeaux,” “L’Engageante,” “Les Folies francoises”, “ou Les Dominos” and “L’Ame-en-peine.” Though not quite as musically satisfying as Bach’s work, Couperin’s piece was again given an interesting piano treatment by Hewitt.

The final piece of the night was Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin.” Unlike both Bach and Couperin, Ravel’s piece, which derived from the late Romantic period, was not Baroque in origin. Ravel’s composition came in six movements – “Prelude,” “Fugue,” “Forlane,” “Rigaudon,” “Menuet” and “Toccata.” “Le Tombeau de Couperin” may have been the best work played by Hewitt all night. She brought flair and style to Ravel’s difficult composition, flying through measures with fluidity and style.

When the last note of “Toccata” was played, the audience demonstrated its appreciation with a standing ovation. Hewitt’s stunning musicianship lit up the Leighton Concert Hall throughout the night, and her reputation and stature should only continue to grow – yet it’s talent and skill that do the talking most effectively, as Hewitt showed that her reputation as an excellent pianist is well deserved.