Keyboard transcriptions are often over-egged puddings, the transcriber blithely drowning simple lyrical songs in buckets of octaves, arpeggios, scales and roulades. Angela Hewitt’s spacious, uncluttered approach revels unashamedly in the pianism while still letting the original songs sing.
I fell in love with Gieseking’s filigree-free version of Strauss’s ‘Freundliche Vision’. Reger’s affectionate but respectful renditions of Strauss’s songs, including the glorious ‘Morgen!’, stretch the piano’s singing abilities. No pianist who has accompanied ‘Allerseelen’ can resist the chance to ‘sing’ it as Hewitt does. And there are treasures here—Wilhelm Kempff’s limpid arrangement of Gluck’s greatest five minutes—Orpheus’s Lament and the Dance of the Blessed Spirits—should be on every pianist’s birthday list. Ernesto Halffter’s arrangements of De Falla’s Siete canciones populares españolas are translucent and characterful, Hewitt thrilling. The succession of slow songs is a little static, but we end, neatly, with Grainger transcribing Gershwin and Siloti transcribing Grainger.
The real treats are Hewitt’s own arrangements. Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s famously misattributed ‘Bist du bei mir’ sounds a touch reserved, but Mahler’s Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony is as heart-rending as the original. Hewitt creates a compelling duet scenario from Grieg’s ‘Ich liebe dich’ which is sparklingly gorgeous.
The engaging liner notes weave a thread through Hewitt’s own memories as well as the parent music. In all, this beautifully recorded recital is a gift to all song-loving pianists who wrestle with the instrument’s stubbornly percussive nature.