Dip Your Ears... ( 39 ) 

(published first at ionarts)

available at Amazon
J. S. Bach, Keyboard Concerti v.2 (BWV1053-57), Angela Hewitt
Bach is like an oasis or refuge… or both – whichever you need. Hearing these keyboard concertos with Angela Hewitt and the Australian Chamber Orchestra from a double-release on the Hyperion label (to be released late this July) reminded me more than anything else in recent months of my belief that classical music (or maybe just Bach) is an inherently superior music, after all. While most of that credit does go to the Old Master himself, I would certainly not hear him so well and the music would not be communicated so well, were it not for the immaculate, energetic, and utterly tasteful playing of Ms. Hewitt.

Playing Bach on a Steinway hardly needs justification anymore, but Angela Hewitt (who also wrote the informative liner notes) provides one of the most elegantly convincing arguments I have yet read:
It is said that if we sat down and copied out all of the music Bach wrote it would take us a lifetime. Yet he was composing it as well. So it is no wonder that from time to time he borrowed from himself. Such is the case with the keyboard concertos. If an original version has not been handed down to us, then there probably was one but it has been lost. Concerto movements also ended up in cantatas, often with florid parts being added to an already busy original. This recycling is one of the arguments I used to defend the performance of Bach on the modern piano. If he could write for the violin, oboe, or voice a singing, melodic line that would have its natural inflections, phrasing, and rise and fall, then why would he not have wanted to hear it on a keyboard instrument that was capable of doing the same thing (since the harpsichord could not)?
The concertos are indeed all either source material for other music or arrangements themselves. If Concerto no. 6 (BWV 1057) isn’t often heard, it must be because of its famous parent, the Brandenburg Concerto no. 5. Keyboard Concerto no. 3 in D major, BWV 1054, formerly known as the A minor violin concerto, BWV 1042, has a similar story to tell. Hewitt unfailingly sparkles throughout, and BWV 1057 making use of the harpsichord continuo alongside the grand piano (neither unique nor common as it were) makes for a particularly interesting and well-judged aural experience. The ACO proves to be a most amiable partner: responsive, flexible, and energetic.

(Going back to my collection, I was surprised to find out that up until now I had had these works [minus BWV 1057] only in two other versions: Trevor Pinnock’s on harpsichord [Archiv] and Glenn Gould’s [Sony]. Perhaps that goes some way in explaining my desire to use phrases such as “utterly tasteful,” “well-judged,” “immaculate,” and “unfailingly this-and-that?”)

This is volume two of the final Bach offerings of Angela Hewitt on Hyperion, lest she can be convinced to do the works for multiple keyboard also. It is as wholly recommendable as all previous installments of her solo Bach – which is to say: very much!

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