Angela Hewitt FRANZ LISZT Piano Sonata - Dante Sonata - Petrarch Sonnets
Elegant and immaculate in both musicianship and platform wardrobe, the pianist Angela Hewitt doesn't immediately rush to mind when considering the wild music of Liszt. Well-ordered Bach is more her cup of tea. She's equally a natural in the piquant French delights of Ravel and Debussy. Yet here she is, with an album of Liszt, Liszt and Liszt.
The first paragraph in her programme note doesn't exactly bode well: 'After hearing the Liszt Sonata as a teenager, I came away thinking what an awful piece it was. It just seemed a vehicle for banging the piano.' That's my point: I can't even imagine Hewitt banging a door, still less a concert grand. She thinks differently now, or so she says she calls this big B minor sonata masterful and thrilling. Yet probably a secret residue of teenage distaste remains: she certainly stays determinedly fastidious throughout the work's fortissimo thunder or the Dante fantasy's mad ride to hell …
Even if her approach sometimes rubs against the music's grain, the poise and clarity of her textures and phrasings still brings major pleasures. She elucidates the B minor sonata's structural subtleties and balances its boarding power with scintillating details like the silver arpeggios circling round the second subject about nine minutes in. In the three Petrarch sonnets, the kaleidoscope of emotions is exquisitely traced. If only she could enjoy Liszt's flamboyance more: I'd almost buy this album for the piano's numerous dying notes, reverberating long and exquisitely toward the end of time. (Geoff Brown /The Times)