Angela Hewitt – The 100th Anniversary season of the Accademia Chigiana in Siena.Bach shining brightly with intelligence,ravishing beauty ……and wit.

Angela Hewitt – The 100th Anniversary season of the Accademia Chigiana in Siena.Bach shining brightly with intelligence,ravishing beauty ……and wit.

Angela Hewitt for the 100th anniversary of the Chigiana Academy
Teatro dei Rozzi – the subdued blue reminding me of the theatre in Blackpool in the UK where Eleonora Duse performed.

Angela’s Bach is a human Bach not a monument to be worshipped from afar but a musical genius who also had human feelings that he expressed within the formal boundaries of music of his time.He also had seventeen children so he must surely have had a sense of humour!Angela’s Bach is based on the song and the dance but above all on the human voice.It is this that kept the audience enthralled with eight Preludes and Fugues from Book two of the Well Tempered Clavier played alternately at times with a rhythmic drive and others a beseeching melodic line of great beauty.Has the D minor prelude ever seen such a seemless stream of notes with unexpected colours appearing like jewels suddenly gleaming brightly.The opening D major had something of the nobility that she brought later to the opening of the Overture BWV 831.There was a pastoral beauty that she brought to the Prelude in E flat contrasting with the simple joy of the Fugue.There was delicate expression to the end of the D sharp Fugue.The poignant simple beauty of the E major contrasting with the nobility and grandeur of the four part fugue.The busy weaving of the E minor Prelude and Fugue you could begin to see what Delius meant when he dismissed Bach as knotty twine!He obviously had not heard Angela’s wonderful sense of colour and shape and a way of highlighting without exaggeration.She would just shine a mini spotlight on the entry of the fugue but with a kaleidoscope of different colours.The F major prelude was allowed to flow so naturally before the joyous eruption of the three part fugue.Her Bach has great architectural shape but within that Gothic cathedral there were so many hidden shapes and different characters that made what looked like a dry exercise on paper becomes a vibrant exhilarating and moving experience.I was reminded of the great actress Sybil Thorndyke who was also a very fine pianist who was the first to show me the refined beauty of the final F minor Prelude that could almost have been written one hundred years later .It was contrasted though with the rumbustuous outcry of the Fugue like a popular ditty ( was not the quodlibet the last of the Goldberg variations based on two popular songs of the day that show that Bach may have been a genius but he was also a person of the times that he lived -‘I have so long been away from you,come closer,come closer’ ‘Cabbage and turnips have driven me away,had my mother cooked meat,I’d have opted to stay!’.It was this Fugue that going backstage in the interval of one of her many concerts in Florence we ended up singing Ebenezer Prout’s famous words to the Bach Fugues.I pretended to remember but she knew them all and was dancing around the room reciting them showing what fun Bach can be too!A lifetime companion indeed !Lucky Angela!And lucky us who can share her ‘joie de vivre’ in her ever generous tournées world wide. P.S. The only other time I remember being so overwhelmed by Preludes and Fugues in the concert hall was a rare recital by Friedrich Gulda in the Queen Elisabeth Hall in London .Appearing on stage as though ready for the gym with tennis shoes and baseball hat looking the audience in the eye as he played a recital of Bach and Debussy.His performance of the Prelude in A flat BXV 886 has haunted me ever since. Angela in Siena chose a perfect sequence of n. 5 to n. 12 from Book two which worked so perfectly as a whole that it could have well been a suite by Bach on its own.Gulda like Gould was a genius and like all genii was extremely unconventional not to say eccentric by our ‘more normal’standards.Angela Hewitt had won the one and only Glenn Gould International Bach Competition and had been promoted by the Canadian Embassy in concerts including the Ghione Theatre and Teatro Olimpico in Rome in 1985.

Gulda years later in the ‘90’s announced a Mozart recital in the Ghione Theatre in Rome.A Bosendorfer was duly delivered for the concert.But Gulda appeared on stage in a wig and declared himself to be Mozart as a dancer began her sensuous performance to Gulda who pretended to play on an electric keyboard.The audience waited patiently for the promised Mozart recital but with pop music blaring away at full force began to leave in droves.About eleven thirty after Gulda had consumed a bottle of Gin I enquired when he thought the performance would finish as the hall was by now empty.’I will finish when I am ready’ was the reply ……when he was sure the hall was empty he sat at the piano and he played so wonderfully that I just wish the audience could have waited a little longer.After the performance he went to the Alexanderplatz Jazz Club where he stayed until the early hours.In the meantime he had announced to the press his death because he wanted to see what the obituaries would say about him !When he did actually die a few years later there was not a squeak about him in the press!Crying Wolf I believe it is called!But the Bach I have heard from him and now Angela I will never forget.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach da “Il Clavicembalo ben Temperato”, Libro II
Preludio e Fuga n. 5 in re magg. BWV 874
Preludio e Fuga n. 6 in re min. BWV 875
Preludio e Fuga n. 7 in mi bem. magg. BWV 876
Preludio e Fuga n. 8 in re diesis min. BWV 877
Preludio e Fuga n. 9 in mi magg. BWV 878
Preludio e Fuga n. 10 in mi min. BWV 879
Preludio e Fuga n. 11 in fa magg. BWV 880
Preludio e Fuga n. 12 in fa min. BWV 881  

Top of Bach’s title page for the 1st book of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’, 1722, showing handwritten loops which some have interpreted as tuning instructions.Each set contains twenty-four pairs of prelude and fugue. The first pair is in C major the second in C minor,the third in C sharp major the fourth in C sharp minor and so on. The rising chromatic pattern continues until every key has been represented, finishing with a B minor fugue. The first set was compiled in 1722 during Bach’s appointment in Kothen the second followed 20 years later in 1742 while he was in Leipzig.

Johann Sebastian Bach Ouverture in stile francese in si min. BWV 831
1. Ouverture
2. Courante
3. Gavotte I

Gavotte II (re maggiore)
5. Passepied I
6. Passepied II
7. Sarabande
8. Bourrée I
9. Bourrée II
10. Gigue
11. Echo

A monumental performance of the Bach Overture in the French Style was again a complete revelation just as the Preludes and Fugues had been in the first part of this extraordinary recital.A work I have rarely heard in the concert hall but the declarative nobility of the opening immediately made one aware that this was a work of great weight and importance.An Overture that lasts almost half the length of the whole work with the noble opening returning after the interruptions of a four part fugue played with pulsating rhythmic energy.A Courante gently flowing with florid ornamentation that just added to the radiance after the grandeur and nobility of the opening.A Gavotte n.1 of grace and charm and a slightly more serious Gavotte n.2 with Angela’s obvious joy at the return to the Gavotte n.I full of her infectiously spontaneous ‘joie de vivre’.The refine courtly dance of the Passepied n.1 in 3/8 contrasted more melodic Passepied n.2 a formal trio like contrast before the return of the Passepied n.1.A deeply meditative Sarabande that was played with an aristocratic florid beauty.The two Bourées with their civilised rhythmic dance and beguiling outpouring of popular melodic effusions of a period of such formal civilised culture.

The Overture in the French style,BWV 831, original title Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art, also known as the French Overture and published as the second half of the Clavier- Ubung 11 in 1735 (paired with the Italian Concerto ) and is a suite in B minor for a two-manual harpsichord.An earlier version of this work exists, in the key of C minor (BWV 831a); the work was transposed into B minor to complete the cycle of tonalities in Parts One and Two of the Clavier-Übung.[The keys of the six Partitas (B♭ major, C minor, A minor, D major, G major, E minor) of Clavier-Übung I form a sequence of intervals going up and then down by increasing amounts: a second up (B♭ to C), a third down (C to A), a fourth up (A to D), a fifth down (D to G), and finally a sixth up (G to E).The key sequence continues into Clavier-Übung II (1735) with two larger works: the Italian Concerto, a seventh down (E to F), and the French Overture, an augmented fourth up (F to B♮). Thus this sequence of customary tonalities for 18th-century keyboard compositions is complete, extending from the first letter of his name (Bach’s “home” key, B♭, in German is B) to the last letter of his name (B♮ in German is H).The term overture refers to the fact that this suite starts with an overture movement, and was a common generic name for French suites (his orchestral suites were similarly named). This “overture” movement replaces the allemande found in Bach’s other keyboard suites. Also, there are optional dance movements both before and after the Sarabande .In Bach’s work optional movements usually occur only after the sarabande. All three of the optional dance movements are presented in pairs, with the first one repeated after the second, but without the internal repeats. Also unusual for Bach is the inclusion of an extra movement after the GigueThis is an “echo”, a piece meant to exploit the terraced loud and soft dynamics of the two-manual harpsichord. Other movements also have dynamic indications (piano and forte)which are not often found in keyboard suites of the Baroque period, and indicate here the use of the two keyboards of the harpsichord. With eleven movements, the French Overture is the longest keyboard suite ever composed by Bach.

A full and very enthusiastic public were rewarded with two encores.The Gigue from the fifth French Suite in a wildly driven performance of astonishing relentless urgency.Followed by a sumptuous performance of an unusual transcription of ‘Sleep May Safely Graze’ which was of truly sublime beauty.

‘A nice masterclass in Perugia yesterday at the Conservatorio. Eight students played Preludes and Fugues for me from the Well-Tempered Clavier, and besides going through those specific ones, I talked a lot about Bach interpretation in general. And then at the end sat down and played four of them from Book II. A lot of students turned up, so it was a nice crowd. I hope it inspires them to go on with this wonderful music.’ Angela Hewitt

Lydia and Guido Agosti with my wife Ileana Ghione.We met whilst I was helping Lydia with her course ‘Da Schoenberg ad Oggi” with her students from the Silvio D’Amico Academy in Rome .The course took place in the ballroom of the circolo dei Rozzi and we were told in 1978 about the abandoned theatre next door.It has since been restored to the splendour that it is today.Guido Agosti gave his legendary six week course at the famous Academy founded by Count Chigi.
Bach can be fun too !
The magnificent Palazzo Pubblico and the Campo.The little house perched on the roof on the right was were Hilda Colucci lived.She had been the arts officer at the British Council in Rome.A post taken over by the late Jack Buckley .Hilda had made a pact with the local council that she would completely renovate that little house and install a lift at her own expense if she could live in it for the rest of her life!Of course as time past and the councillors changed,the new ones realised that she was living in a gold mine and they tried by devious legal means to get her out.She got a lawyer from Siena and being Sienese herself she also got a lawyer from Florence.The strain and struggle never altered Hilda’s wonderful jovial demeanour but she had a stroke and ended up in a Hotel where she was well looked after by friends.It is the same hotel where I am staying today recommended by the Chigiana – the Canon d’Oro………small world .Hilda’s name is still on the door bell in Piazza del Campo.
With the artistic director of the Chigiana Foundation Nicola was nice to reminisce among friends of long standing .Angela thinks we first met in 1985 when she came the first time to the Ghione Theatre .I was very wary to say that it was much before that,when Sidney Harrison who was my teacher and became her neighbour and mentor in Chiswick .Nicola Sani was my neighbour in Rome, he at n.3 and we at n.4 Carlo Dolci .Our downstairs neighbour was Audrey Hepburn with a beautiful little house she built in our garden for her son Luca to go to school when her marriage to Dr Dotti broke up.She and my wife were great admirers of each others art and they shared hairdresser too.
With Carlo Rea and his family .Carlo used to play in the orchestra that Franco Ferrara used for his legendary conducting course .A course where Mehta,Abbado,Barenboim and most of the great conductors of our day learnt from one of the great musicians that were at the Chigiana during the summer months.I came there as a first year student at the RAM to study with Guido Agosti,a student of Busoni ,and thought I would get the sack if they ever found out in London.When I got back to the RAM I found I had been awarded the Tobias Matthay Fellowship for my initiative!

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