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“Hewitt’s playing radiates joy, wit and profound understanding of Bach’s keyboard style." — The Sunday Times

After her extraordinary performance of The Art of Fugue in October 2015, Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt returns to 92Y for a four-season-long exploration of the entire corpus of Bach’s keyboard works. For her final concert of the season, Ms. Hewitt presents a selection of Bach’s technically demanding sonatas and partitas, well suited to her commanding virtuosity.

Angela Hewitt, piano 

Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV 825 

Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826
Sonata in D minor, BWV 964 

Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV 828

Read a special message from Angela Hewitt and concert program notes.

► Angela Hewitt discusses Bach performance on the piano (Hyperion)

► Angela Hewitt plays Bach’s Partita No. 1, Praeludium  (Hyperion)

► Angela Hewitt plays Bach’s Sonata in D minor, Allegro  (Hyperion)

Epoch Times interviews Angela Hewitt before her 92Y concerts, 10/21/16

Explore the Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

Welcome from the 92Y Director

Dear Friends,

Almost exactly one year ago – October 28, 2015 – Angela Hewitt enthralled 92Y with her performance of Bach’s magnificent, if enigmatic, The Art of Fugue. In its rave review, The New York Times wrote that “she found an endless variety of moods, emotions and atmospheres.” After the concert, Ms. Hewitt and I discussed her future presence at 92Y. Naturally the conversation turned to Bach, and she shared her vision for a four-year, twelve-concert survey of the entire Bach keyboard repertoire. It would be more than a musical journey; it would truly be an “odyssey.”

She already had plans to present this project at London’s Wigmore Hall, but such an unprecedented endeavor certainly must also be shared with the music lovers of New York, so I invited her to bring Bach Odyssey to our stage. I am thrilled that she agreed and honored that 92Y can present this astonishing musical experience.

The first year of Ms. Hewitt’s Bach Odyssey will conclude next April 4 with a program of sonatas and partitas. But of course the piano was not Bach’s only instrument of choice. Two weeks later the cello will have its say when Alisa Weilerstein gives a monumental performance of the complete Cello Suites on April 22 – affirming her own status as a foremost Bach interpreter.

We have much to look forward to, so now, let’s embark on this musical adventure together.


Hanna Arie-Gaifman
Director, 92Y Tisch Center for the Arts

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Statement from the Artist

Angela Hewitt performing The Art of Fugue at 92Y, 10/28/15 (Hiroyuki Ito)

by Angela Hewitt
My journey with Bach began the day I was born, if not before. How fortunate I was to have a father who was a cathedral organist and played all those great organ works with such passion, intelligence and dramatic flair! I remember as a young child holding my breath during the G-minor Fantasia and Fugue, the C-minor Passacaglia—knowing it would all be resolved triumphantly at the end. My father also arranged the great Toccata and Fugue in D minor for the whole family — 2 pianos, 8 hands — when I was maybe 10 years old. I danced to Bach, sang Bach, played him on the violin and recorder, tried him out on the harpsichord … and in the end put all that experience into playing his music on the piano.

As a teenager, I remember planning how I would present all his keyboard suites in a series of recitals, trying to match up keys. There were still so many pieces to learn, but every year I added several more to my repertoire. At the age of 17, I entered the first of three Bach competitions — the one in Washington, DC, in which the test piece was the Goldberg Variations. That gave me my American recital debut at the National Gallery and my concerto debut with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. My first European competition was also devoted to Bach, this time in Leipzig, awarding me the chance to see where he had lived and worked for so long, and to visit his grave in the Thomaskirche. Then in 1985, the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, I won first prize in the Toronto International Bach Piano Competition, and my international career, based on Bach, was launched.

Angela Hewitt’s 15-CD Bach box set for Hyperion

It never bothered me to be associated so closely with his music. How could it? There is no greater music than the Well-Tempered Clavier, than the three sets of suites, the Goldberg, the Toccatas, even the “easy” Inventions and Sinfonias. To develop in his company one’s musical intelligence, technique, beauty of sound, and spirit is a great gift and a lifelong adventure. The offer from Hyperion Records, back in 1994, to record all his major keyboard works gave my career a purpose and direction that has been enormously fulfilling.

When the director of London’s Wigmore Hall, John Gilhooly, approached me to perform this huge opus in its entirety in twelve recitals over four years, my first reaction was to say no. There is still so much other repertoire I must do before it’s too late. But it didn’t take long to change my mind, and to realize what a marvelous thing it would be to revisit it all in a concentrated time frame. I am immensely grateful to Hanna Arie-Gaifman for her visionary and enterprising spirit in inviting me to perform it also in New York at 92Y. I know these concerts will be highlights of my life, and I look forward to sharing the glory of Bach with you between now and 2020!

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Bach at the Keyboard

By Harry Haskell

Title page,Clavier-Übung I (1731)

Bach showed a serious and sustained interest in the suite throughout his career. It was characteristic of his methodical approach to composition that he used the form both as an organizational device and as a pedagogical tool. This systematic mindset is most clearly shown in his four-part Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice). The first volume, which Bach self-published in 1731 as his Op. 1, consisted of six Partitas — sometimes called German Suites — for single-manual harpsichord. Subsequent volumes focused on music for the organ and double-manual harpsichord, including a bravura “concerto after the Italian taste” (the so-called Italian Concerto), a more suavely ornate “overture after the French manner” (the French Overture) and the Goldberg Variations.

Angela Hewitt’s Six Partitas CD (Hyperion, 1997)

Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Bach’ first biographer, described the six keyboard Partitas as “brilliant, well-sounding, expressive, and always new.” The virtuosic character of the music was not lost on Bach’s contemporaries. The composer and critic Johann Mattheson, for example, cautioned that “anyone who ventured to read them off at sight would be undertaking something very foolhardy, thinking that with his juggler’s tricks he could impose on his listeners’ credulity.” Nevertheless, Bach disarmingly advertised the Partitas on the title page as “galanteries, composed for music lovers, to refresh their spirits.” It was in this spirit that he had presented a copy of the first Partita to his erstwhile employer, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, to mark the birth of the heir to the throne in 1726.

Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse (Johann Georg Schreiber, 1732)

Notwithstanding their technical difficulty, the Partitas were an immediate commercial as well as artistic success. According to Forkel, writing at the beginning of the 19th century, “This work made in its time a great noise in the musical world. Such excellent compositions for the clavier had never been seen and heard before. Anyone who had learnt to perform well some pieces out of them could make his fortune in the world thereby; and even in our times, a young artist might gain acknowledgment by doing so ....” Bach himself probably performed the Partitas at the public concerts he presented at Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse in Leipzig as director of the local collegium musicum ensemble.

© 2016, Harry Haskell

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BACH: Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV 825

Born in Eisenach, March 21, 1685; died in Leipzig, July 28, 1750
Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV 825
Composed in 1726; 17 minutes

In the Baroque era, the word partita — which translates as “little part” or “division” — commonly referred to a suite of stylized instrumental dances, usually, but not always, including an allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. (Like many musicians of the time, Bach used Italian, French and German terminology interchangeably, hence the variant title “Giga” in BWV 825.) To these might be added a variety of other dances, as well as movements of a less dance-like character. The Partita in B-flat major opens with a placid, freely ruminative Praeludium. The leaping theme, with its distinctive ornamental shake, migrates from top to bottom of the three-voice texture, a steady 8th-note pulse anchoring the fluid syncopations of the melody. The second-movement Allemande is characterized by crisp rhythms and lucid textures, while the vigorous momentum of the Corrente is fueled by rippling cascades of triplets interspersed with angular dotted rhythms. In the central Sarabande, the aria-like melody meanders serenely above a spare harmonic bass. A pair of graceful Menuets lead to a zesty finale built around briskly swirling triplet patterns. The Giga is a tour de force of nimble hand-crossings, with its brightly pinging quarter notes enmeshed in a skein of skittery passagework.

© 2016, Harry Haskell

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BACH: Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826

Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826
Composed in 1727; 18 minutes

The C-minor Partita opens with an expansive — and distinctly undance-like — three-part Sinfonia. After a lugubrious and slightly labored preamble, marked by majestic dotted rhythms, the music abruptly takes wing in smoothly flowing figurations over a steady “walking” bass. These in turn unexpectedly give way to a lively triple-time section in the imitative style of a two-part invention. By now, it’s clear that Bach doesn’t intend to restrict himself to any one mode of expression. The other five movements are equally diverse, yet the overall effect is one of unity and balance. The Allemande’s graceful roulades, punctuated by syncopations and embellishments, are echoed in the sinuous lines of the tenderly melodious Sarabande. The slow movement is sandwiched between two dances that pulse with kinetic energy: a florid, relentlessly driving Courante and a scintillating Rondeaux, with its gossamer passagework, interlocking 3/8 rhythms and recurring rondo-style theme. A jaunty, coruscating Capriccio brings the Partita to a high-spirited conclusion.

© 2016, Harry Haskell

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BACH: Sonata in D minor, BWV 964

Sonata in D minor, BWV 964

Composed ca. 1720; 19 minutes

Andante from original Sonata No. 2 for Violin

Much of Bach’s music has a fundamentally abstract quality that reflects the contrapuntal idea of parity among independent parts or “voices.” This helps explain why his works lend themselves so readily to transcription; indeed, Bach made many such arrangements himself — in this case, of his own Sonata in A minor for unaccompanied violin. The work is laid out in the four-movement structure of a church sonata (sonata da chiesa), with a slow, stately introduction followed by a fast movement in fugal style, a lyrical interlude and a bravura finale. The opening Grave is dark and rhapsodic in character, its fine-spun tendrils of melody clinging to a sturdy harmonic frame. It is followed by one of Bach’s longest and most elaborate fugues. A densely woven tapestry of short rhythmic and melodic motives, the music shifts restlessly from one tonal center to another, alternating between brilliant intensity and quiet reflection. A sharp contrast lies in store in the Andante, a luminous aria that gently ebbs and flows above a steady current of pulsing 8th notes. Then comes another surprise: a burst of pent-up energy in racing 16th notes, each of the opening phrases followed by an echo, and each half of the movement played twice. The tension and momentum build inexorably until the Allegro reaches its exhilarating climax. .

© 2016, Harry Haskell

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BACH: Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV 828

Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV 828

Composed in 1728; 28 minutes

Clocking in at nearly half an hour, the D-major Partita is substantially longer than BWV 825 and 826, in part because Bach seems in less of a hurry to work out his musical ideas. Of the seven movements, only the Aria and Menuet stand out for their economy and lightness of touch, helping leaven what is otherwise a fairly dense, though by no means indigestible, loaf. The Partita begins with a traditional French overture, a form characterized by a slow, spacious prelude followed by a more animated section — in this case, a zestful fugue. Bach follows this lengthy introduction with an equally substantial Allemande, whose rhapsodic languor is accentuated by searching harmonies and supple rhythmic patterns. The Courante’s snappy arpeggiated figures contrast with the skipping syncopated theme of the Aria, while the sun-kissed melodic garlands of the Sarabande recall those of the Allemande. In the concluding Gigue, the pearly, meandering triplets of the Menuet are transformed into a raging torrent. .

© 2016, Harry Haskell

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Artist Bio

Angela Hewitt, piano

One of the world’s leading pianists, Angela Hewitt regularly appears in recital and with major orchestras around the world. Admitted into Gramophone’s Hall of Fame in 2015, Ms. Hewitt’s performances and recordings of Bach have drawn particular praise, marking her out as one of the composer's foremost interpreters of our time.

In autumn 2016 Ms. Hewitt embarks on a major project entitled The Bach Odyssey, which comprises all of Bach’s keyboard works in twelve recitals over the next four years. In addition to 92nd Street Y, she will present these performances in major cities and venues around the world including London’s Wigmore Hall and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, as well as in Tokyo and Florence. Other recital highlights this season include Vienna Konzerthaus, Birmingham Town Hall, Bath Mozartfest, Rotterdam’s De Doelen, Sociedad Filarmonica de Bilbao, and a tour of Australia with Musica Viva. In summer 2015 Hewitt was resident at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

Other highlights of Ms. Hewitt’s 2016/17 season include the Baltimore and Winnipeg symphonies, the Duisburger Philharmoniker, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa. Ms. Hewitt also directs Festival Strings Lucerne from the keyboard at Munich’s Gasteig, and she tours the UK with Vienna’s Tonkünstler Orchestra in spring 2017. Her recent orchestral appearances include the National and Toronto symphonies, and an Asian tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Sir Neville Marriner.

Ms. Hewitt's award-winning recordings have garnered praise from around the world. Her recording of Bach’s The Art of Fugue was released in 2014, and her ten-year project to record Bach’s major keyboard works for Hyperion has received critical acclaim. Her most recent releases include her sixth volume of Beethoven’s sonatas, a new recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Hannu Lintu. A first album of Scarlatti sonatas was released in spring 2016. Her discography also includes CDs of Mozart, Schumann, Couperin and Rameau.

Born into a musical family, Angela Hewitt began her piano studies aged three, performing in public at four and a year later winning her first scholarship. She studied with Jean-Paul Sévilla and won the 1985 Toronto International Bach Piano Competition. Ms. Hewitt was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2006 and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada (CC) in 2015. She lives in London but also has homes in Ottawa and Italy, where she is Artistic Director of the Trasimeno Music Festival. Her website is

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