Angela Hewitt’s program for this evening dubbed “Spanish Landscapes” showcased a pianist who has made a successful transition from one that had been, for years, confining herself inside the realm of Bach –much like Glenn Gould, to one that has successfully widened her repertoire –much like Marc-André Hamelin, another of her compatriots. In fact, if tonight’s concert is any indication, she should no longer be considered just a Bach pianist at all.

Angela Hewitt © Mai Wolf
Angela Hewitt
© Mai Wolf

Ms Hewitt started both halves of her concert with Scarlatti sonatas. The first half began with a straightforward D minor sonata, followed by thr very playful C major K.159 in which her left hand continually emulated the chords of a guitar. What came next was one of this evening’s few somber moments in the shape of the B minor Sonata K.87. As easy as this piece sounds, a good execution requires the melodies that Scarlatti has hidden inside the chords to be pulled out. Ms Hewitt, very much in control of her fingers, did just that while adding a little pedal for colour while never making the music sound melodramatic. The last sonata for the first half was the technically demanding D major K.29 where we witnessed Ms Hewitt at the height of her physical prowess keeping a perfect beat all throughout the sixteenth notes on her right hand and still managing to break the lightening chords in her left hand to give the audience an illusion of strumming.

After this brief introduction to Spanish Landscape, Ms Hewitt was ready to jump straight into the heart of her programme with a selection of three works from Enrique Granados’ Danzas Española. The first was “Villanesca”: a mid-tempo rural ceremonial dance which was delivered with utmost clarity and elegance. Then, for the “Andaluzza”, the pianist took a completely different approach and gave us a brutally beautiful music with a truly fiery character, so much so that I had trouble keeping up with her feet on the pedal, let alone her fingers on the keyboard. The last selection was “Jota” (Rondella aragonesa), a piece that starts out quietly and gathers steams towards an explosive end. Here, Ms Hewitt’s skill in phrasing was prevalent particularly during the middle serenade section.

The next two Granados pieces were played back to back, without a break. The first of these, “Quejas o la maja y el ruisenor”, the fourth piece from the composer’s celebrated Goyescas Suite featured very emotive playing with Ms Hewitt drawing pearly, yearning sounds from her Fazioli piano. The other Goyescas piece chosen for the evening was “El Pelele” – a complete reversal from what preceded it. Here, the pianist was blazing with loud octaves, occasionally simmering her playing to create an almost magical dynamic contrast.

Four more Scarlatti sonatas opened the second half starting with playful A major K.113 and D major K.430 Sonatas played in true exercise fashion with minimal pedal use followed by the G minor K.8 where Ms. Hewitt, once again, showed her excellent guitar emulation technique. The final sonata on the program was the G major K.13 which was crowned by amazing fingerwork, probably one of the finest renditions of Scarlatti’s music I have heard.

No Spanish landscape is complete without Albéniz, and this evening we were treated to three pieces from his Suite Española. A Schumann-esque rendition of “Seville” came first, followed by the crowd-pleaser “Asturias”. The double escapement action of Ms Hewitt’s piano could hardly keep up with her blazing-fast repeated notes. Her fingers were so fast that there were a few instances in the repeat of the main theme where the hammers simply did not have enough time to bounce back which she compensated for by using the pedal for continuity. The pianist’s selection from the suite ended with “Castilla” in which she brought out the syncopated rhythm perfectly.

The most difficult piece of her programme was still to come though. De Falla’s Fantasia Baetica is a devilishly hard piece to play. With the melody constantly changing, harmonies transitioning among various ethnic influences, it is hard enough to keep up with the music for a listener, let alone the performer. Ms Hewitt triumphed through the music however, brushing away the glissandi, thumping on the pedal and made the music sound even more beautiful than de Falla possibly intended.

This truly outstanding recital ended with a single encore: a piece which Ms Hewitt called her favorite Scarlatti sonata: the E major K.380.