Déjà Review: this review was first published in June 2000 and the recording is still available.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations, BWV988
Angela Hewitt (piano)
rec. 1999, Henry Wood Hall, London
Hyperion CDA67305 [79]

At last, Angela Hewitt records the Goldberg variations! After having been bowled over by her interpretations of the classic ‘forty eight’ in recent months, this listener received this disc for review and immediately crawled to the CD player with shaking hands and bated breath. What followed was one of the most profound eighty minutes in my listening life, such is the magnificence of this recording. Of course one cannot discount the Cortots, Schnabels, Rubinsteins, Goulds (awesome) or the Haskils but I wager a tenner that this disc will be a reference disc for these timeless variations for many years to come.

Just sample Hewitt’s playing in the fabulous 22nd variation or in the beautiful melodies of the 10th and 11th and you will have heard what is indeed rarely captured on record. Throughout the variations, Hewitt’s sense of profound purpose and utter omission of showmanship places these pieces not as trivial night music but as amongst the greatest canvases that Bach ever composed. Reading the promotional message, one realizes that the recording was made in one complete take in the late evening; what a vigil that must have been!

The expert Ludger Bockenhoff (of Fermate fame) manages to capture a well nigh unsurpassable sound in the Henry Wood Hall. This adds to the allure. It would not do justice to this incredible interpretation if I were to describe each piece, for that I refer you to Angela Hewitt’s masterly images that demonstrate her sheer passion for this music. For me, this is the release of the year for Hyperion, unless they have more Bach from Hewitt, that is! How about: ‘The Art of Fugue’ now?

Gerald Fenech


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