Classical Album of the Week: Angela Hewitt's 18 Hours of J.S. Bach

May 6, 2019

May 6, 2019. Pianist Angela Hewitt recently tweeted, "Seems I'm married to #Bach. Well, I've spent more time with him than anybody else, that's for sure."

She was referring to a Milan newspaper calling her "La Signora Bach," in announcing an upcoming Bach recital played by Hewitt. Our Classical Album of the Week, Angela Hewitt plays Bach—actually 15 albums representing almost 18 hours of music—proves that Hewitt has earned the title "Ms. Bach."

Her recorded compendium of nearly all the music J.S. Bach wrote for solo keyboard is an astonishing testament to her stamina, intellectual curiosity, and depth of devotion to the Baroque master.

Released by the British label Hyperion in 2010, this 15-CD set represents a recording journey that began in 1994 with J.S. Bach's complete two-part Inventions and three-part Sinfonias, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and the Fantasia in C minor. The chronologically last part of the set consists of a 2008 recording of the complete 48 Preludes and Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Books I and II. Hewitt had made a previous recording of the mighty "48" but decided to re-record them anew, following her 2007-2008 world tour performing the complete Well-Tempered Clavier, from memory, around the globe.

In between, she recorded the six English Suites, the six French Suites, the six solo keyboard Partitas, the French Overture and Italian Concerto, the Goldberg Variations, the Toccatas, as well as other J.S. Bach works. As a bonus, the box set includes a 16th CD called "not Bach," including works by Handel, Couperin, Rameau, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, Messiaen, and Chabrier. 

Audiophiles will note with interest the differences in recording venue and instrument from the early recordings to latest (London's Henry Wood Hall and Steinway piano in the early recordings, versus Berlin's Jesus-Christus-Kirche and Fazioli piano in the later recordings.)

Throughout all the recordings, Hewitt's artistic hallmarks are a constant: perceptive phrasing,  clarity of contrapuntal lines, and warmth.