Music review: Angela Hewitt, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Naturally, we’ll never experience the thrill of hearing Bach’s music the way 18th century ears did.
An epic, continuous set packing a powerful punchAn epic, continuous set packing a powerful punch
An epic, continuous set packing a powerful punch

Angela Hewitt, Usher Hall, Edinburgh * * * * *

But pianist Angela Hewitt’s two-parter covering the 48 Preludes and Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier comes as near as dammit to transporting us into the composer’s mind.

Monday’s opening programme dealt with Book 1, a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key, its overriding aim to capture the essence of each individual nugget without forcing sequential logic where none was necessarily intended.

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So, for instance, the slow-burning inevitability of the C sharp minor Fugue, the breeziness of the D major Prelude, the intellectual grit of the B minor Fugue, were, in themselves, magically self-contained in Hewitt’s minutely-detailed, intelligent interpretations: never overblown, beautifully articulated and judiciously expressed.

But performing them as an epic, continuous set packed its own powerful punch. Hewitt took every opportunity to capitalise on the dramatic potency of contrast: a lingering pause between each key to heighten suspense; or the opposite, extremes of mood and tempo electrifyingly exaggerated through sudden juxtaposition.

All of which allowed intrinsically intimate music to radiate fully in the enormity of the Usher Hall.

Don’t miss Part 2 on 14 August.