18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The following is a very frank and honest review of the CD, and really is only my opinion -- so readers, and fanatical fans of the ACO, beware.
A few days ago I purchased this very recent recording of Angela Hewitt and the Australian Chamber Orchestra playing the Bach Keyboard Concertos. I have both good and bad things to say about it, after listening to the entire CD twice:
Positive = The first thing I noticed is that Angela Hewitt has grown as a pianist -- especially since her 80s CBC recording of the Bach piano concertos (which really isn't that far behind in terms of musical excellence, IMHO). However, she's well maintained the positive aspects of her style: as one reviewer puts it, "you hear a more graceful and "smoother" style of Bach" (this isn't a recent addition to her style, though, she's always played with excellent grace and smoothness). The Concerto in g- is amazing! Linda Kent also does a superb job with the subordinate harpsichord parts, which I'm about to complain about.
Negative = I'm really not too pleased that the harpsichord makes random (yes, I emphasize random, in spite of the booklet) and extremely subordinate appearances throughout the works. It's as if they wanted to honour the harpsichord, but still say, "sorry, no one plays you anymore -- get the hell out!" It randomly chimes in in the background sort of confusingly and creepily at once (except in the Brandenburg Concerto). At times, I confess, it was distracting and I began to wish the harpsichord would just take over. Not everyone likes the piano/harpsichord mix, and for VERY good reasons (to me, it's a little bit like mixing salt and sugar -- ugghh!); there is absolutely nothing wrong with using one instrument or the other (contrary to the booklet claiming that "there is no reason why it shouldn't be part of a ... recording, even when the piano is used as the solo instrument" -- is that not totally one person's opinion?! I'd like to ask Bach or any number of harpsichordists!).
The Australian Chamber Orchestra plays well in general, but the Concerto in d- isn't to my liking at all, and NOT because of Angela Hewitt (though it may well be to the liking of others). It's not nearly as tragic, I insist, as the 1958 Glenn Gould recording. They do a better job with the g-. A severe and cynical 3/5 for the ACO, except for Linda Kent.
That said, rare are the performers whom I would trust enough to hear playing Bach on a piano. Angela Hewitt is one of them. Her technique really is truly excellent, and overshadows the fact that she does over-romanticize sometimes (the #1 distinction, I believe, between her and Gould). The CD really is worth the money, if you don't mind the weirdly random piano+harpsichord mix, and especially if you're an Angela Hewitt fan; for the Concerto in d-, however, if you want to go for a piano performance, I would strongly recommend Glenn Gould's 1958 New York performance (Sony) or Angela Hewitt's 1987 Toronto recording (CBC). Both are better, especially for the first movement (Hewitt grows, but altogether I better appreciate her old recording for that one concerto). Wanda Landowska and Trevor Pinnock both have superior recordings available on the harpsichord of all of the concertos. This is a very, very serious collection of concertos, and I'm really sorry to say that I don't take it as seriously as I should. I'm torn between 3 and 3.5 stars -- so I'll give it 4.