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Bach: Goldberg Variations Bwv 988 / Angela Hewitt


Release Date: 04/11/2000 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67305   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Angela Hewitt
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Beautifully co-ordinated Bach playing, with all voices colourfully defined and spontaneity as a constant virtue

Name your leading interpretative preferences in the Goldberg Variations, and there's bound to be someone on disc who expresses them. Leaving aside numerous harpsi- chord versions, the current catalogue is notably rich in colourful piano alternatives. Of the best available options, Rosalyn Tureck holds structure as paramount; Glenn Gould (in his 1981 recording) is strong on rhythmic continuity and contrapuntal clarity and Evgeni Koroliov, whom Lionel Salter welcomed to the Goldberg fold last month, is distinctive above all for his imaginative handling of repeats. Angela Hewitt's chosen course is not dissimilar
Read more to Koroliov's, at least in principle (both pianists play all the repeats), but her manner of playing is entirely different. Two things struck me more or less from the start: first, that she can summon so many dynamic grades simultaneously; and second, that her variations between repeats are not restricted to matters of voicing. For example, in Variation 13, she accelerates her phrases as if caught on a spontaneous impulse, then relaxes for the response (0'32''). When she plays the variation's first half again (1'08'') she significantly modifies her tone and rubato, then opts for a more formal approach to the second half. All this in just over four and a half minutes!

Her mastery of the keyboard is exemplary. She can launch an elegant staccato (Var 2, which is also a good place to sample her 'three-dimensional' part-playing) or allow one voice to weave an ivy-like thread, while others argue above it (Var 3, from 0'09''). In Var 7, she colours the repeat by softening her tone and introducing a subtle lilt to the rhythm, whereas in 12 she underlines the 'question and answer' elements then accentuates the darker voices in the repeat. For Var 20, she inserts echo effects for the first statement, then stresses syncopations for the second.

Beyond a seamless account of the pivotal 25th variation, Hewitt rattles off manic trills in 23 and favours a grand, free-wheeling approach for 29. Koroliov treats the same sequence (Vars 26-30) as a sort of exultant catharsis after the emotional rigours of the 'Black Pearl' (which, as LS remarked, exceeds 11 minutes. Hewitt's runs to eight). His is a more forthright alternative, with less in the way of interpretative 'incident' between the extremes of bass and treble. Both performances are pianistically imposing, but Hewitt is the subtler colourist and her recording (Henry Wood Hall, September 1999) is superior. In my view, she has never made a better CD. Strongly recommended.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone [4/2000]
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Works on This Recording

1. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Angela Hewitt (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London, England 
Length: 78 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Nuremberg, Germany (1741 - 1742). 

Featured Sound Samples

Goldberg Variations: Variation 3
: Variation 29

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