Angela Hewitt leaves few stones unturned in projecting the linear specificity of Beethoven’s style. In Op 31 No 1’s first movement, for example, you’ll rarely find the left-hand second subject and the sequential right-hand patterns so logically contoured. No doubt Hewitt’s authority in Bach informs her sophisticated articulation of the Adagio grazioso’s elaborate ornaments (note her fastidiously calibrated trills), achieved with minimum pedal and maximum finger control. For my taste, Hewitt’s Allegretto is a tad deliberate and fussy, whereas Jonathan Biss matches her intricate workmanship in faster, more humorous terms. Hewitt’s subtle timbral distinctions between detached and sustained passages throughout Op 14 No 1 bring Beethoven’s wonderful string quartet arrangement of this sonata to mind.
Hewitt lavishes similar care over the modest Op 49 sonatas. She brings a winsome lilt to No 1’s finale which makes up for its sedate tempo. If she holds back in No 2’s Allegro ma non troppo (here I prefer François-Frédéric Guy’s robust animation), her steadfast legato/détaché differentiation in the Menuetto is attractively deadpan.
One can hardly fault Hewitt’s suave execution or her meticulous voice-leading and dynamic shadings in Les adieux’s first movement, although I miss the forward impetus and outward joy conveyed by Ivan Moravec and Solomon. Many pianists put the slow movement in freeze-frame but Hewitt treats it like the classical Andante it is, making expressive points through touch and colour. After pouncing into the Rondo’s whirling introduction, she seemingly settles back when the movement’s main theme commences. Yet her biting accents, strong left-hand presence and shapely downward scales assiduously gather momentum and drive. In other words, Hewitt is a sleek cougar next to Artur Schnabel’s scruffy lion! As always, her annotations show her to be equally articulate and accessably erudite away from the keyboard. I look forward to her cycle’s 10 remaining sonatas. (Gramophone)