Bach: Toccatas, BWV 910, 911, 912, 913, 914, 915, 916

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Toccatas, BWV 910, 911, 912, 913, 914, 915, 916
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
As with previous releases in her ongoing Bach cycle for Hyperion, Angela Hewitt’s intelligent virtuosity, stylish command and uncluttered musicianship not only serve the composer well, but also prove how vibrant and expressive the toccatas can and should sound on the modern concert grand. The pianist generates palpable harmonic tension and release in the introductory sections without losing the unfettered, improvisatory spirit of the music. By contrast, her moderate, fluid tempi for the central adagios differs from Glenn Gould’s microscopic deliberation, just as Gould’s hard-nosed drive in the F sharp minor and E minor fugues varies from Hewitt’s lighter, dancer-friendly sound-world. Certain interpretative choices may strike listeners as a tad arch: the pianist’s echo-effect dynamics in the G major’s introduction, or her overly worked-out articulation and sedate pacing in the C minor Fugue (no match for Gould’s driving intensity). These quibbles hardly matter in the light of Hewitt’s considerable virtues, plus the fact that her toccatas fit comfortably on one CD, whereas Gould’s spill over to a second disc. Hewitt’s excellent booklet notes, moreover, set a warm, scholarly tone that utterly avoids pedanticism. Jed Distler