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Angela Hewitt's Haydn and Handel

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Handel / Haydn, A. Hewitt

(released on September 8, 2009)
Hyperion CDA67736 | 67'25"
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is one of my favorite performers when I want to hear Baroque music, and especially Bach, played immaculately on the modern piano (she prefers a Fazioli). She has done it again with this recent disc combining some keyboard selections of Handel with Haydn's F minor variations and the piano sonata Hob. XVI:52. For the Handel suites, my first recommendation would still be for harpsichord, as in the new set of the eight "Great" harpsichord suites by Jory Vinikour for Delos, reviewed in honor of the Handel anniversary last year. At the same time, we have no problem with hearing Handel played on the piano and, as with her other recordings of Baroque music, Hewitt creates a version that manages both to sound authentic and to be highly idiosyncratic, bearing her own stamp in terms of variation of tempo and attack. Hewitt has written her own liner essay for the booklet, which depending on your temperament, you may not want to read.

What it reveals is an approach that is not as scholarly as you might expect from Hewitt: in it she notes that the Bärenreiter edition records a different conclusion to the G major chaconne recorded here (HWV 435). Preferring the edition she learned in her youth, she chooses to play it instead, and well she should. As she also notes, Trevor Pinnock plays the critical edition in his recording: she is aware of the research and the differences of the editions, and she is not presenting her recording as anything but what she likes to play. She also seems to have no trouble making other changes, adding octaves to the left hand in places to give a fuller sound, for example. Hewitt's Haydn is no less pleasing, with the filigree runs in the F minor variations, played so memorably by Alfred Brendel at his Washington farewell recital, light as a Rococo feather. Yes, I would still rather have my Haydn on a fortepiano, as heard from Kristian Bezuidenhout at the Library of Congress a couple years ago, but nothing wrong with hearing the sonatas from more pianists (a disc from Rafał Blechacz was the most recent example of the sonata recorded by Hewitt, no. 52).

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