Monday, February 8, 2010

Angela Hewitt, pianist

Angela Hewitt in Concert
Friday, February 12, 2010 at 8pm, Roy Thomson Hall
60 Simcoe Street, Toronto

On May 10, 1985, pianist Angela Hewitt stepped out on stage at the 1st and only ever Toronto International Bach Piano Competition for her own-choice virtuoso piece, knowing her career was virtually in the balance. While she wasn't available for an interview, understandably, she does like to share with her fans and fellow music/Bach enthusiasts online in various forms, including her own website, and in an online post reminiscing about the win, she says,

For ten years, since the age of 16, I had been on the international piano competition circuit, winning many prizes but lacking the “big one”. Winning this would, I knew, launch me worldwide and put an end to competitions for life.

She launched into a version of Liszt’s “AprÄ—s une Lecture de Dante” that left the competition behind, and a jury that included pianist Leon Fleisher, composer Olivier Messiaen and his pianist wife, Yvonne Loriod, and Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin awarded her first place. As she had judged, it launched an enviable professional career of concerts, collaborations and recordings. Enviable - but nonetheless a life she took on with a sense of responsibility.

And I say “the door had been opened” because in fact that is all it is. An immense opportunity to then build a life with music: to keep showing time after time that you were worthy of it; that you can continue to grow as a person and as a pianist; that you can withstand constant, enormous pressure; that you have the repertoire to sustain 100 concerts a year; that you can put up with constant travelling and never being at home.But that after 25 years of doing so, you can still get up on stage and feel the freshness of a piece you have played all your life and play it with all your heart.

On February 12, at that same Roy Thomson Hall, Hewitt reprises the programme that won the prize, including Bach’s Italian Concerto; Beethoven’s Sonata in D major, Op. 10 No. 3; and Brahms’s Sonata in F minor, Op. 5. Her current tour has seen her play Carnegie Hall (February 6). That concert ended her tour with the celebrated Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and she'll cross the continent to Oregon later this month before heading back to Europe.

Ms Hewitt grew up in Ottawa, born into a musical family that included a father who was a church organist. Her own musical involvement began early, at age 3, and she gave her first solo recital at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music at the tender age of 9.

In 1994, well established in her professional life, she set out to record Bach's complete Well-Tempered Clavier, an undertaking whose results are available on Hyperion Records, and one that took her 11 years. The results were immediately acclaimed as the new gold standard for Bach on the keyboard - described as “one of the record glories of our age” by The Sunday Times. She was Gramophone's Artist of the Year in 2006 not for Bach, but a recording of Beethoven Piano Sonatas.

In 2007 she took WTC on the road, a long road that took her from Colombia to South Africa, playing an exhausting repertoire of both books in full over two concerts on two consecutive days. Indeed, if you read a few of the reviews here and there, the only complaint seems to be the amount of time the reviewer had to spend sitting on his duff while Ms Hewitt played. You can check a taste of it out yourself here Live from Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, U.K. in June 2008 as part of her Bach world tour. In 2008, after 58 cities on 6 continents, the tour ended, and she recorded a new version of the Well-Tempered Clavier to universal accolades.

Ms Hewitt recently won Artist of the Year - Instrumentalist at the 2010 MIDEM Awards. Nowadays she lives in London, with homes in both Ottawa and sunny Italy, where every year she runs the Trasimeno Music Festival.

You can read the rest of Angela's reminsces on her 1985 win at this link. The evening - on the 12th - should prove sublime.

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