Colin Clarke
International Piano
January 2017

Hewitt's decision to re-record the Goldberg Variations, given the huge success of her 1999 recording, is both brave and remarkable. Yet it offers listeners an opportunity to trace the deepening of Hewitt's Bach playing : in May 2015, Hewitt gave a performance of Die Kunst der Fuge at London's Wigmore Hall that revelled in that piece's more progressive textures; and there is an element of that sense of 'Bach the explorer' in her new recording of the Goldbergs.

Another aspect to note is the move from the Steinway of 1999 to her beloved Fazioli, which she finds a most 'creative' make of piano that doesn’t lose its 'ring' at lower dynamic levels (comments taken from Hewitt's Wigmore masterclass in April last year). The earlier version is indeed magnificent; it is only when one encounters this most recent reading that one realises things could indeed be taken further. There is no loss of that characteristic excellence of textural clarity, but there is a deepening, evident right from the statement of the Theme, which is more inward-looking and given more space. This sense of depth maps onto a heightened sense of tranquillity: take Variation VII, which exudes calm and control; Variation X now comes with extra profundity and underlying peace; Variation XI with extra limpidity. At other times, Hewitt finds a new objectivity that allows the music to speak for itself (Variation XI). She also allows herself more agogics, while the final return of the Theme, crystalline and ultra-quiet, offers a moment of utmost stillness.

The new venue (Berlin's Christuskirche) is a little more open than London' Henry Wood Hall. A salutary reminder that recordings which one thought couldn't be bettered, actually can—remarkable.