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Volume 20 Issue 4 - December 2014

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For The RecordAngela

For The RecordAngela Hewitt’s 2020 visionDAVID PERLMAN“I was justthinking thistoday, playingBeethoven, theolder you getthe morefreedom youcan put intomusic”As Pamela Margles notes in her review of of Angela Hewitt’snewly released Bach: Art of the Fugue in this issue of TheWholeNote (page 77 of the print edition) “it was four years agothat Hyperion released all of Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt’srecordings of Bach’s solo keyboard works as a 15-disc boxed set. It wasa huge project, but it didn’t include Bach’s monumental late work, TheArt of the Fugue.”“That is when everyone started writing to me of course,” saysHewitt. “You know, why haven’t you done The Art of the Fugue.” Shehadn’t even performed it before then, she says, let alone contemplatedrecording it. “Growing up, it wasn’t even really considered a keyboardpiece, or even anything you performed much. For one thing it hadlong been considered something of an academic work – Bach seeingwhat he could do with fugues, double fugues, triple fugues, mirrorfugues. And there was the fact that in the first edition it was written asan open score, one voice per stave, like a string quartet.”But then, after the boxed set appeared and the letters started, theRoyal Festival Hall asked Hewitt to perform two concerts for the2012/13 season, “one in the autumn and one in the spring, withprograms that somehow matched up. So I thought here’s my chanceto do the Art of Fugue because then I can present it in two halves andwork on it better than playing it all at once the first time. I matched itwith late Beethoven which was the perfect thing to team it up with.And so for that whole year and a half, even though I played it in twohalves, I played it a lot.”She played it in its entirety for the first time at her own festival,in Trasimeno, Italy, in the summer of 2013 and then recorded it thefollowing month. “With something like that,” she says, “I would nevergo into the recording studio without performing first. It’s just tooimportant to have performances as part of the experience.”As a single performance it’s a massive work, I observe. “It is. It’s 90minutes, and I play it without an intermission. But in London, twonights ago, the audience was so quiet and it was in a beautiful churchwith beautiful sound and a Fazioli piano and it was just bliss. I thinkit’s a special experience when you can hear a piece that’s that longand create a mood and sustain it; and with something like that it’sworth it.”I remind her of the last time someone from The WholeNote interviewedher (Pamela Margles who wrote the aforementioned Art of theFugue review) It was in 2007 in Trasimeno, just before her festival, the8 | December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015

summer before she launched out on a sustained world tour in supportof her recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (including backto-backperformances in October 2007 at the Glenn Gould Studio inToronto).“I think that was something like 110 dates in 26 countries on 6continents over 14 months” she says. “I’m not the kind of artist whotravels with the same recital program all year round. I don’t do thatat all. But with the Well-Tempered it’s such a challenge to get upnight after night and play it (on most occasions from memory). Ialways went out on stage thinking okay I’m going to try to get it bettertonight, By the end of the 14 months I think I’d had enough but Icovered so much of the world and brought that music to so manypeople. ”So will there be anything on that scale in support of The Art of theFugue? I ask.“Not in the same way. I have been performing it a lot. I performed ittwo nights ago in London; I’ve played it in Glyndbourne in the operahouse, at my festival and other places in Italy, I’ll be playing it in Aprilin Sao Paulo, Wigmore Hall, ... so its something that will remain in myrepertoire for many years to come.”In terms of her assertion that she is not the kind of artist whotravels with the same program year round, deeds speak! Her hastilyarranged November 12 2014 visit to The WholeNote for this interviewcame less than two days after Art of the Fugue in Hampstead; the nextday she was off to the Aurora Cultural Centre, north of Toronto, fora recital. It’s interesting to me that she still has time and appetite forsmall venues like Aurora. “I’ve always done that,” she says. “I supposeat the stage I am now I could do away with such things, but it wouldbe a loss for me and for the people in those communities. You know,you can often play a program there that you have to play in CarnegieHall so it’s very useful in that regard but that’s not the reason.”So what will her Aurora program be, I ask. “It a big one” she says,“That’s two big programs this week. I’m playing the fifth Partita ofBach, which I haven’t played in many years, but was one I played inmy teenage years so I remember it pretty well ... Beethoven, his secondlast sonata, in A flat major, Op.110 (which of course has a fugue in itin the last movement and which I recorded and will be released nextyear); then after intermission a group of four Scarlatti sonatas, whichI’ll be recording in February; Albeniz, three extracts from the SuiteEspagnole, because the links between Scarlatti and Spanish music arevery close, ... and then, to finish off, the big “Dante” Sonata by Liszt,which I’ve also recorded and will be out soon after the new year.”The number of recordings, all with Hyperion, recent and upcoming,is dizzying.”The relationship with Hyperion started back in 1994, she tells me,and it’s a story with a bit of a twist. “l actually sold them my firstrecording which was the Bach Inventions. I had done the DeutscheGrammophon record after I won the prize here in 1985, the BachCompetition; that record had done very well but the marketingpeople, even back then they said unless I made some scandal theydidn’t know how to market me – it wasn’t enough just to play thepiano well. I waited many, many years before making another recordand then wasn’t willing to wait any more. I got my former producerfrom Deutsche Grammophon (he had retired by then) and he got thisyoung sound engineer Ludger Böckenhoff who was freelancing forDeutsche Grammophon, very brilliant, a wonderful guide, we’ve beentogether 20 years ...“Anyway, Hyperion took on that first Bach recording but only if Iwould record the complete Bach. I said sure! So that was back in 1994I started with Hyperion, run then by the formidale Ted Perry, now byhis son Simon.”Clearly it’s a good match: “three or four CDs a year which veryfew pianists do in today’s climate; wonderful repertoire: Beethovensonatas, Mozart concertos, but also a lot of French music – Chabrier,Couperin, Rameau, Messiaen, the complete Ravel, Debussy, ... incrediblediscography, and lots of projects into the future.” She could bewith a bigger name label now, she says, “but what does bigger labelmean these days? I mean I could be with a label that gives you moreactual PR, if that’s what you want but I have all the musical integrityof being with Hyperion and doing what I want.” Add an astoundinglyJUILLIARD QUARTETThursday, January 8 at 8 pmBARBARA PRITCHARDPianistThursday, January 29 at 8 1-800-708-6754order online at December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015 | 9atTuesday,January 20at 8 pmST. LAWRENCE QUARTETCanadianHeritagePatrimoinecanadien

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