Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
A modern Bach legend shares her insights
Alan Lekan | Boulder, CO | 02/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hyperion produced this two-disc DVD set as part of Miss Hewitt's 07/08 Bach World Tour (bachworldtour). It is shot on location at the Fazioli piano factory in Italy (Hewitt highly favors these pianos). Even if you are purely a listener, this nicely done production will take you to a new depth of discovery and appreciation into the legendary music of Bach and Angela Hewitt.
Disc 1 (148 min) is instructional with Hewitt demonstrating various techniques, strategies and advice in 7 chapters (see list below). I suppose it is something akin to her Bach master's classes. She uses numerous musical motiff examples from the WTC and much of Bach's keyboard repertoire to show what she means. These alone are endlessly fascinating to watch the pianist's ease, fluidity and nuance. She often compares to how an amatuer would play it ... and of course how the she would approach it. One is immediately impressed with Hewitt's love and discipline with this music. She is also a great educator, weaving both technical detail and personal stories in the lessons. The camera work is quite good, showing at a slight angle from the right the keyboard work of both hands up close. Up this close, you can see just how strong her steel-spring-like fingers are for playing Bach like she does! Of course she makes it look effortlessly.
Disc 2 (62 minutes) is a live performance at the Fazioli factory auditorium - where of course she plays an absolutely gorgeous Fazioli Concert Grand. These pianos are noted for their super-fast action, complex yet brilliant and clear harmonics and the addition of a special, forth pedal for enhanced dynamic shading. Of course she makes Bach sing and sound beautiful on it. The camera work again is good allowing one to see most of the action unhindered, although at times of sections of fast passagework (like in the chromatic fantasy/fugue) the camera is more on the pianist than the keyboard. The sound is rich and full as is her playing, making for an impressive concert.
A small missed opportunity perhaps was not getting a 'virtual tour' of how they make pianos at the Fazioli factory, whose instruments in various stages of assembly are in the background during the shoot. Side bar: for piano afficiantos, there is a marvelous little chapter about the Fazioli factory in the charming memoir, "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank" by Thad Carhart.
Chapter 1: Introduction
- Early beginnings
- Bach on the modern piano
Chapter 2: The Essentials
- Singing tone
- Imitating bowing
- Gamba sonata with D. Muller-Schott
- The left hand
Chapter 3: Intrepretation
- Rythymic alterations
Chapter 4: The Dance in Bach
- Dance in Bach's music
- Dance and tempo
Chapter 5: Learning a Fugue
Chapter 6: Ornamentation
- Basic rules
- Adding ornaments
Chapter 7: Practical Advice
DISC 2 - CONCERT PERFORMANCE
1. Partita No. 4 in D major
2. Italian Concerto in F major
3. Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor
Terrific insights, nothing condescending
Molly the Cat | the USA | 07/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Curiously enough, I was moved to purchase this video by one of the less-than-stellar reviews on this page; I already knew Angela Hewitt to be a fine artist, and though I strongly doubted that there would be any basis for claims like "It's all about Angela" and so forth, this disparaging review added to the interest I already had about this DVD set.
It is my pleasure to opine that such criticisms are unjust. Indeed, I am put in mind of the words of Erasmus in "The Praise of Folly," when he (as Folly) observes that no accomplishment is possible unless a person has some measure of self-love and of thinking well of one's self; without these, the orator goes silent, the musician hangs up the instrument, etc.. Ms. Hewitt has as much confidence in her own opinions as any artist of her eminence should have. She thinks she knows how to play J.S. Bach, and she thinks she has something to teach others about the subject. But I found nothing at all condescending about her presentation (nor am I quite sure why the reviewer felt Glenn Gould's name needed to be invoked; as fine a musician as I concede he was, did Bach playing start and end with him?).
The first disc is a 2 1/2 hour presentation where Ms. Hewitt speaks on different aspects of Bach performance, sometimes with touches of humor (e.g., her amusing facial expressions when trying to play something as a beginning student would; her comment that the Schirmer edition of Bach, except for Ralph Kirkpatrick's Goldbergs, should be "banned"). This is rich in information, but I must concede that the technical nature of the presentation will be daunting to many, especially non-performers who are more taken with Ms. Hewitt's artistry than the 'nuts and bolts' of her technique.
However, the second disc is an hour's worth of her simply performing Bach: the Fourth Partita, the Italian Concerto, and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue. This portion of the release will be accessible and delightful to music lovers no matter what their level of technical knowledge.
I found this DVD set quite wonderful, and not at all what I would have been led to expect by the uncomplimentary reviews that called this "all about Angela" and condemned her as "snooty." I personally find no basis for such criticisms, and I doubt the average viewer will either. With only the caveat previously mentioned of the technical nature of much of Ms. Hewitt's lecture--which may not be as interesting to some as it was to me--, I would highly recommend this release.
Excellent resource for players
anonymous | New York, NY USA | 09/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I try to play some Bach at the piano every day for about an hour. I'm finding the first disc of this set really helpful and challenging, even though I'm only about half way through it. There's a lot of advice-some of which I hadn't heard before, some of which I hadn't heard expressed and demonstrated in quite this way. There's a lot of conflicting information floating around about how you're supposed to play Bach, and its great to have an interpreter of this caliber lay out her knowledge and opinions so thoroughly and clearly. Even if you aren't a player, Hewitt's lecture will increase your understanding of her approach and the challenges of playing Bach generally. Highly recommended."
She has added much enjoyment to my listening!
F. Horne | 08/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two discs--a series of lessons on disc 1 (see Mr. Lekan's list) and a live performance on disc 2. What Angela Hewitt does on disc 1 is set forth her approach to playing Bach. Even though I am not a musician--or perhaps because of it--I got more from disc 1 than from any other single Bach record I own. The reason is that Ms. Hewitt not only tells you what she thinks is the way to play Bach, but she does the telling from a piano bench, and then she turns to the piano and plays to illustrate exactly what she is talking about. She illustrates how a singing tone is achieved; she illustrates how she modulates timing and emphasis to achieve an effect similar to the way we modulate our voices as we talk or sing; she brings in the 'voices' one by one to show what happens as polyphony is built up. What Ms. Hewitt is really after, it seems to me, is to avoid monotony in her playing, and add the equivalent of color, light, and shadow. I will admit some of the lecture was beyond me. However, what I could follow is already adding immensely to my enjoyment of Bach--and not only her playing, but that of others. I am now enjoying listening and comparing Hewitt's playing of a particular piece with Gilels' playing or Gould's or Perahia. In short, I am hearing the music better now because of her instruction. Also, I take it as given that Ms. Hewitt is explaining her playing and her understandings, and that other Bach masters would differ with her. It matters not--let them come forth with their DVD and I may buy it too. Her explanations have meant much to me already.