Bach: French Overture, BWV 831; Italian Concerto, BWV 971

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: French Overture, BWV 831; Italian Concerto, BWV 971
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67306
Pianist Angela Hewitt long ago established a reputation as an expressive and scrupulous Bach interpreter. More recently, her recordings of The Well-Tempered Clavier and the Goldberg Variations have consolidated her place as one of the most convincing Bach pianists at the present time. In this new release she completes an ‘essential’ Bach with the Italian Concerto and the French Overture. These companion pieces, in which Bach transferred to the solo keyboard medium the two major mid- to late-Baroque orchestral forms, concerto and overture-suite, were issued together in 1735 as the second instalment of his four-part Clavier-Übung or ‘Keyboard Practice’.

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In addition, Hewitt includes two of Bach’s Capriccios, one of them the programmatic ‘Departure of a Beloved Brother’, and the four Duets from the third part of the Clavier-Übung. One of the most winning features of Hewitt’s understanding of Bach’s music is her recognition of the need to preserve textural clarity. Above all, though, her spirited, often playful approach serves the interests of the outer movements of the Italian Concerto and the livelier dances of the Suite uncommonly well. Where the overture proper is concerned – a breathtakingly accomplished combination of ritornello form and counterpoint – I found myself wanting more overtly Gallic gestures. Certainly these performances rate highly in my league table and deserve ‘benchmark’ status. But readers who prefer the smoother legato, gentler articulation and more seamless phrasing of András Schiff (Decca) or Sviatoslav Richter (Philips), for example, should probably rest content. Nicholas Anderson