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Review: A Pianist Reveals Bach’s Inner Dancer


That quality abounded in her playing on this night in a program that included the last three of Bach’s six English Suites. As in all of Bach’s keyboard suites, most of the movements are based on dance forms, including the courante, gavotte and gigue. Even the opening Prelude movements seem charged with the energy of dance, especially in Ms. Hewitt’s performances.

The Allemande of the English Suite No. 4 in F major unfolds in curvy, contrapuntal lines embellished with runs rich with triplet flourishes. While rendering these qualities gracefully, Ms. Hewitt conveyed the music’s bouncy yet stately character as a dance. Even its slow Sarabande, which has the quality of a chorale, came across like a courtly dance. You could imagine the gracious bows and flowing gestures of the dancers.

The quick-paced Gigue that ends this suite had breathless energy and crispness, but not so much that it would obscure the music’s complexity and daring. The turbulent Gigue that concludes the intense English Suite No. 6 in D minor might not seem so danceable, with its relentless spans of spiraling runs and eerily sustained trills that keep bursting forth. Ms. Hewitt conveyed the movement’s storminess, but also its choreographic vigor.

That Ms. Hewitt, in a program note, referred to her career as “based on Bach,” seems right. The centerpiece of her acclaimed recordings for Hyperion is a 15-CD collection of Bach’s major keyboard works, completed in 2014. But her discography includes albums of Beethoven, Chopin, Chabrier and Debussy.

On this night she also played an early Bach Sonata in D, a charming piece that concludes with a Theme, as the composer called it, alive with imitations of cackling hens and a chirping cuckoo, playfully dispatched by Ms. Hewitt. She then showed additional expertise at bird calls in her encore: Couperin’s “The Nightingale in Love.”

Angela Hewitt: Bach Odyssey

The four-year survey concludes with programs at the 92nd Street Y in April and May, 2020, 92y.org; 212-415-5500.


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