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A Wigmore Hall performance of this exact programme in early May this year by Angela Hewitt was one of the highlights of the 2013/14 concert season. She preceded her account with a mini lecture-recital before giving a performance that was both revelatory and awe-inspiring. Her intimate knowledge of the score is mirrored on these discs and in her excellent booklet notes, which act a superb guide through Bach’s complex score. The present disc was recorded almost a year before the Wigmore event (August 2013) but Hewitt’s greatness is here, too, in all its glory. Her concentration is unswerving throughout, as it was in performance, her voice-leading impeccable. All this is without question dedicated to revealing Bach’s masterwork in all its heavenly glory.

It is in Bach’s most complex and experimental moments that Hewitt truly triumphs, her wealth of experience not only enabling her preternatural delineation of textures but also a true understanding of the processes at work. Bach’s monumental piece is much more than a procession of techniques; it moves on inexorably to the final Contrapunctus 14, where Hewitt finds a strangely transcendent peace co-existing with a rather more human sense of the fragile. As in her performances, Hewitt appends the Chorale Prelude BWV668a, apparently dictated by Bach on his deathbed and included in the first edition by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel. It is a beautifully poignant move, coming after a long pause and the cruelly unfinished final fugue.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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