Bach: Transcriptions by Kempff, Hess, Walton, Ireland, Hewitt, Berners, Bauer, Howells, d’Albert,

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Transcriptions by Kempff, Hess, Walton, Ireland, Hewitt, Berners, Bauer, Howells, d’Albert,
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67309
Never before has a pianist renowned for impeccable and idiomatic performances of original Bach undertaken to provide an unstinting, high-calorie feast of ‘hyphenated’ Bach, served up, at times, with a degree of pianistic abandon, heavy pedalling, flexible tempi and dynamic extremes fit to give the purists nightmares. And it culminates in one of the greatest piano performances I have ever heard. Most of these arrangements are of organ music, and Hewitt often approaches them in kind. By this I mean not only her sometimes stunning ‘registrations’, but what seems to me a mistaken tendency to use the same sorts of expressive devices on the piano as those required to transcend the limitations of the organ. She also shows an apparent reluctance to ‘inflect’ large-scale melodic figures (essentially ‘ornamental’ and prolonging in character), thereby obscuring the shifting relationship of foreground and background

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events which gives so much of Bach its rhythmic energy. Nor, until d’Albert’s monumental arrangement of the great Passacaglia, does she seem to me to be in full command of her normally ravishing and all-embracing tonal palette. With the Passacaglia, however, we come to a single (albeit very substantial) track worth vastly more than the price of this or any other disc. The deployment and phenomenal control of tone colour, the exquisite shaping of phrases, the combination of lyricism and indescribable grandeur, the arching command of structure, achieved without any sacrifice of movement or fine detail, all these add up to a performance of simply colossal stature. Jeremy Siepmann