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Brent Hugh Music Review Archive

Sparkling Bach at the Folly

Angela Hewitt, pianist. Friends of Chamber Music Master Pianists Series. February 27th, 1998, Folly Theater.

Angela Hewitt has won prizes in three international Bach competitions. Even in her pre-concert lecture, as she illustrated the simplest Bach pieces played by every beginning pianist, it was easy to see why. Minuets, marches, little preludes, and inventions came off not as minor works for children and students, but as sparkling little masterpieces.

The first works on Hewitt's program, four duets from Bach's Klavierübung, Volume 3 (BWV 802-805) are from the same rather simple mold. Similar in difficulty and texture to Bach's two-part inventions, the duets may have been intended for use in private religious observances in the home. Certainly they were never intended to be played before a large audience, and the performing such pieces--finely wrought, but conceived on a small scale--in a hall the size of the Folly Theater is no easy task. Without over-romanticizing, Hewitt managed to bring to these small pieces a scope and a brilliance rarely heard even in performances of Bach's larger works.

Eschewing on the one hand the bells and whistles of over-emotionalism, and on the other, the deadly dull pedanticism of many so-called "authentic performances," Hewitt's Bach seemed to be simply a realization to the nth degree of her own admonitions (in the pre-concert lecture addressed to piano students) to "hear and shape every phrase musically" and avoid at all costs "playing like a sewing machine."

Bach's Partita Number 6 in E minor (BWV 830)--now truly a large work--was the highlight of the evening. Although the second half of the program included fine performances of Ravel (Valses Nobles et Sentimentales), Granados (Three Spanish Dances) and de Falla (Fantasia Bética), I couldn't help wishing for more Bach.

Friends of Chamber Music upcoming performances:

Friday, March 20th, 8 p.m. Pianist Andras Schiff.

Friday, March 27th, 8 p.m. Mozart's Multiple Worlds. Kansas City Symphony with commentator Robert Kapilow.

Friday, April 3rd, 8 p.m. Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Richard Goode, pianist.

Saturday, may 9th, 8 p.m. Pianist Mia Chung.

All performances at the Folly Theater. Senior/student, academic, and group discounts are available. Student/senior rush tickets are $5 and are available one-half hour before each performance (but call ahead--performances are often sold out).

Friends of Chamber Music: 561-9999, Brent Hugh is a pianist and composer. You can hear him online at

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