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In Performance: Angela Hewitt's Goldberg Variations

In today's Washington Post: Hewitt brings showy but hollow Goldberg Variations to Strathmore, by Cecelia Porter.

(A personal aside: I announced earlier this fall that I was looking forward to hearing Hewitt's Goldbergs after Christopher Taylor's performance of them in October. Unfortunately Jennifer Higdon's piano concerto had its world premiere with the NSO on the same night.)

By Anne Midgette  |  December 5, 2009; 9:58 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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I would commend everyone to read the excellent comments posted with regards to Cecelia Porter's unfavorable review of Angela Hewitt's performance of the Goldberg Variations. As Anne Midgette's noted in the Fall Arts preview, a "critic has to try to clear at least a portion of his mind and ear of preconception and expectation" but Ms. Porter shows scant evidence of having done so. Ms. Porter bemoans how Bach's signature pulse, momentum and counterpoint were "burried" instead of exploring more fully why Hewitt's varied tempi, beautiful phrasing, dynamic range and technique ultimately proved unsatisfying for Ms. Porter. I can agree to disagree with a reviewer -- in this instance, what amased and pleased me most about Hewitt's performance was how she retained those "signature" Bach qualities while adding so much more to the music - but deserve more from a reviewer than essentially remarking that it wasn't "Bach-y" enough for the reviewer's liking. Finally, I think the characterization of Hewitt's balletic hand movements - strikingly fluid during even the most technically difficult passages -- as "theatrical showmanship . . . clearly intended to impress a large concert hall audience" justified other commenter's remarks about Ms. Porter's review being "churlish." A performers stage appearance/presence is a valid part of any review. However, assuming the performers intent and implying that such gestures are evidence that the performer did not engage the material in an "intimate, ruminative and personal" manner amounts to not much more than ad hominem attack. Hewitt's extensive Bach scholarship is not above criticism but the terse review offered little insight on much else other than Ms. Porter's personal predilections.

Posted by: mason50 | December 8, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

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