Pianist Angela Hewitt plays Bach’s Goldberg Variations on the heels of her second recording of the masterpiece | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Pianist Angela Hewitt plays Bach’s Goldberg Variations on the heels of her second recording of the masterpiece

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In the liner notes for her dazzling new recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (Hyperion), Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt details each of the 28 pieces with casual erudition, dispatching technical observations with an easy familiarity that bleeds into something more personal. She writes of how with every onset of the 22nd Variation she gets “a feeling of rebirth,” also explaining how much energy and focus variation 26 requires right after “emptying everything from inside yourself in Variation 25.” She first performed the masterpiece when she was just 16—she’s 58 now—and the work was instrumental to her early career after she won a 1975 competition playing it. As she writes, “The best moments in a performer’s life come when a piece is so much a part of you that you can forget the mechanics of it and find total freedom,” and indeed, that’s the feeling she transmits with the new recording as she balances crisp rhythmic alacrity with a wonderfully gentle touch. It’s her second version of the work—an achievement calling to mind her fellow Canadian, the great Glenn Gould, who set the standard for this cycle (twice)—and almost four minutes longer than the one made 16 years earlier, as though she’s savoring the music now more than ever. I remain a novice when it comes to European concert music, but the Goldbergs get me every time, and Hewitt has served up one of the best new spins I’ve encountered in the last few years. She’ll tackle the complete cycle during this rare local visit.   v

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