I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Hewitt Records the Art of Fugue

Bach's Die Kunst der Fuga is a true favorite piece of music of mine (BWV 1080). Organized as a series of fugues and canons labeled contrapuncti, the piece starts simply enough with a D-minor keyed theme and fugue, then complexity is added to subsequent movements, until we get teased at the end with likely what was planned to be the final movement, a 4-part, 4-voiced fugue. Bach's manuscript has been left unfinished. Hewitt, like many performers, plays it trailing off just as the notes on the page do.

 No period artwork on this cover; instead hand-tooled lettering against a cool gray adorns a cover as what may be Hewitt's final installment of Bach's major keyboard works playable on piano.

No period artwork on this cover; instead hand-tooled lettering against a cool gray adorns a cover as what may be Hewitt's final installment of Bach's major keyboard works playable on piano.

Hewitt has recorded Bach's keyboard works (for what we assume was harpsichord) on piano over the course of many years, with many recordings receiving high acclaim. In general I like her approach and her recordings; at times, I have also felt she has been a bit reserved with her own interpretation, as far as the extremes go. I can understand a pianist doing that, when Bach's command of the extremes on a quiet chamber instrument were even more limited.

Other readings on the piano have had merit; I especially like the directions Vladmir Feltsman has taken in his reading; I have been less impressed with others. My favorite reading is with Musica Antiqua Köln from 1984 on DG Archiv (and their bootleg DVD that I have found on YouTube from the early 2000s is also good). Christian Rieger gave a strong, athletic even recording on harpsichord alone. But what instrumentation was it written for? And how did Hewitt overcome the tendency to reduce the piece to something boring, all written in the same key?

Hewitt admits she saved this for last, but it wasn't all strategic. She needed time to understand the piece and to find how to make it interesting. Her journey was well worth the wait.

This is a very thoughtful, clear, and articulate account of what I consider Bach's best work. Her articulations among the voices are at times mannered, but it's all for brining clarity among the homogenous piano texture. She often chooses clarity over virtuosity, and my only reservation is the tempo she chose for the Contrapunctus 9 alla duodecima movement (my favorite).

I'll even go further to say I think this is Hewitt's best Bach recording yet (I don't own them all, but I have at least sampled them all). And while I think there's no one ultimate way to perform this work, which really like The Musical Offering defies any one orchestration, for fans of the piano, this may just be the strongest release available.

As for the art deco-ish font on top of the CD, I think Hyperion ruined an anotherwise very interesting cover. But don't let their font choice (or artwork) influence your decision making here.

Fasch Quartets and Concertos

Telemann Concertos for Winds - Volume 8