+ ￥ 350 配送料
+ ￥ 350 配送料
Toccatas BWV 910 à 916 / Angela Hewitt, piano
A toccata--from the Italian word meaning "to touch"--was originally a glorified keyboard warm-up, in which scales and arpeggios were tossed off with improvisatory abandon. But as Angela Hewitt shows, Bach's youthful forays into this genre were finely wrought gems, masterpieces in miniature. This dazzling CD matches the extraordinarily high standards she has set herself in the complete keyboard Bach she is building up year by year. Her touch is springy and muscular, her pulse rock-steady; the more anarchic Bach's fancy becomes, the more rigorously she controls its expression. Taking her cue from the absence of autograph manuscripts, she puts these works into a satisfying running order, so we can savor them as we would at a recital. The liner notes are--as usual with this coruscating communicator--a performance in themselves. Musical commentary is seldom so fresh, or so illuminating for those who want to follow in her footsteps. And yes, she makes a brilliant case for the piano in Bach: in these 65 glorious minutes, there's not one dull moment. --Michael Church
The strengths and weaknesses of Hewitt’s interpretation can be heard clearly in the E minor Toccata (track 4, BWV 914). The Toccatas are constructed from alternating episodes, made up of fugues, meditative slow passages that serve as contrasting sections, sometimes in the proud “French Overture” style, and virtuous passages built from flourishes showing off the performer’s technique. The E minor Toccata characteristically ends with a fugue constructed of running sixteenth notes, instantly recognizable as Bach, one which interestingly emerges not after a full cadence but directly and organically from a brilliant non-fugal section. Hewitt plays this fugue with panache. But the rest of the Toccata, such as the severe opening, tied thematically to the concluding fugue, is undernourished. The meditative Adagio that occurs a bit later in the piece is presented in a restrained, even dull fashion.
I heard the same thing in the G-major Toccata (BWV 916), placed second here. Hewitt gives us a lively rendition of the cheerful main sections offset by insensitive playing of a central slow interlude. The toccata doesn't end, it just stops - bluntly. Or the F#-minor Toccata (track 3, BWV 910), which follows, has an uninspired opening and an uninvolved slow middle section but the two fugues, the first aggressive and built from a downward scale of eighth notes, the second fugue, ambitious and involved and using a downward chromatic scale as a subject, are done with spirit. Hewitt appears to spring to life when she is captured by the music but sounds bored other places.
I compared Hewitt’s performance of the best known of the Toccatas, in C minor (track 1, BWV 911), with Martha Argerich’s on DG. Argerich presents a dramatic and sweeping version, with her characteristic brand of intensity. In contrast, Hewitt is a bit listless, selecting tempi that are considerably slower. Hewitt chooses to take the beautiful central fugue, built out of the C minor triad, slowly at the beginning, a long-standing and successful strategy in playing Bach’s more severe fugues. So far so good, but that strategy usually involves a gradual build-up in intensity as the textures and re-introduction of the main subject become more complex. Hewitt doesn’t achieve such an increase in intensity, both here and in the related concluding fugue. The superiority of Argerich’s exciting and involved interpretation I think is pretty obvious.
Sound engineering is very good. The Toccatas, which I think are attractive and fine pieces, date from earlier in the author’s career, all of them written before Bach turned 30 in 1715, and as early works they have received relatively few recordings over the years. So Hewitt is one of the few on offer. I am rating this 4 stars both because of the uneven quality of Hewitt’s playing found here.
The 2005 Gramophone Guide gave this CD the top "Gold Star" rating (3/3 stars) and concluded: "Her performances could hardly be more stylish or impeccable, more vital or refined. Hewitt's playing is personal and characterful without resorting to self-serving or distorting idiosyncracy." Moreover, the Penguin Guide summarized this recording this way: "We have no hesitation in declaring this the most stimulating and rewarding CD of these complex and episodic works on any instrument, consistently showing Bach's youthful explorations at their most stimulating."
Indeed, there is much variety, inventiveness and drama in this music that Angela Hewitt brings out to the fullest - from the songful and even contemplative slower interludes to rippling demisemiquaver scales that open some pieces to the powerful, complex fugues. Perhaps the richest aspect of Hewitt's playing here is her ability to skillfully and subtly shape the repeating episodes within the fugues by her nuances of color and dynamics. Many of these fugues have short themes that Bach incessently repeats throughout the piece (a famous trait of Bach that he is able to pull off to great effect). With most composers or playing, such repeated motiffs would quickly become monotonous or grating to the ear - as some Toccatas can be on the harpsichord as Hewitt points out. But, with Bach's skillful contrapunctal writing and Hewitt's imaginative playing, she transforms these repetative fugal sections into music of wonderous appeal and fascination - building an unfolding drama within the piece to great effect. The G-minor and D-minor Tocattas are fine examples of how Hewitt's subtle touches transforms these incessent fugues into lumanscent wonders.
One recording of the Toccata in C-minor that is quite interesting by comparison is that of Martha Argerich. While not noted for her playing of Bach, Miss Argerich in the early 80's put to disc a dynamic performance of this Toccata (along with a Partita and English suite on DG). Where Ms. Argerich's bold performance reminds one of Bach's legendary powerful tone and command, Hewitt's touch is worlds apart in its subtltry, charm, inflection and nuance. Hearing Argerich's version along side Angela Hewitt's performance helps to illuminate Miss Hewitt's style more clearly - which is one of longer, more-lyrical flow with a notably beautiful tone and something intangible that might be best called a "heartfelt quality." Hewitt's C-minor Toccata exudes a more songful flow and subtle artistry compared to Argerich's more punchy and "intellectual" reading. Actually, Hewitt's reading can easily be described as "pretty" by comparison (perhaps too pretty for some). She is always a pianist and utilizes the greater expressive range of her Steinway to achieve maximum emotional qualities and tonal beauty.
So, overall, Angela Hewitt's Toccatas are at the top of the class as Penguin Guide and Gramophone notes. With repeated listening, it has become a favorite of her entire discography - part for Bach's fascinating composing and part from Hewitt's sparkling and full-of-life pianism. Compositions - 5 stars; Performance - 5 stars; Sound quality - 4.5 stars.
She plays cleanly and accutrately, but what adds to the beauty is how improvisational she sounds; and we know the Baroque masters excelled at improvisation.