Granted there is one ..lly missing from the list and that would be operatically but we will let that pass for the moment. But for the other "arts" the calender - though perhaps not as crowded with big names - is still a crowded one. Between our subscriptions for the NAC orchestra, two dance series, the Great Canadian Theatre Company, Chamberfest, the Cantata Singers and other groups here in Ottawa we are out often twice a week to concerts, recitals or plays. In February we've had the National Ballet of Canada with their new production of Romeo and Juliet; unfortunately a late work day and exhaustion meant missing the Brahms Alto Rhapsody with the NAC Orchestra; Ballet BC in a programme of modern dance - the William Forsythe piece beautifully done, the rest... boh!; the NAC theatre company in a fascinating staging around and in a swimming pool of Ovid's Metamorphosis; and last evening a piano concert by Angela Hewitt.
Miss Hewitt appears in Ottawa frequently - she is after all a hometown girl - and the concerts always have a special, almost familial, air to them. She appeared here last year twice - once in the Chamberfest Winter series with The Chamber Players of Ottawa. That evening one of the players had taken sick and the substitute did not have time to feel comfortable with the second piece of the evening so we had to make do with (!) Miss Hewitt playing Le tombeau de Couperin. Several months later she appeared with the NAC orchestra for the Ravel Piano Concerto and hosted a small coffee reception afterwards. She proved as gracious a host as she was a brilliant musician.
This time it was a solo concert with, on paper at least, an unusual programme of Bach and Debussy. It seemed an unlikely combination but the Bach French Suites 5 and 6 with their dance movements dovetailed with Debussy's Baroque influenced Pour le piano and the dance tempi of Suite bergamasque. Even the encore - Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte - kept us in the realm of Baroque-influenced dance.
I will be the first to admit that Bach does very little for me. I can admire the musicality, the originality, the line of Bach's music however I find that it very seldom moves me. I recognize that Miss Hewitt is considered the preeminent keyboard interpreter of Bach and even her playing gives rise to only admiration for the genius of Bach on my part. However last night her playing of the Sarabande in the Suite No. 5 gave me an emotional charge that both surprised and delighted.
I don't normally associate Debussy with passion - romance yes passion not so much. But passion was a quality that Miss Hewitt brought to all three Debussy pieces. It is always fascinating to watch the body language of pianists and, if possible, to watch their hands. From our seats Mezzanine-left we had a perfect view of Miss Hewitt and the keyboard. Though she is never less than elegant there was a marked difference in the way her arms were held and her body moved between the Bach and Debussy. For the one more formal - I wont' say ridged - and for the other her body seeming to flow with the music. For the Bach the hands moved majestically over the keys; for the Debussy they often seemed to flow and even the complex cross-hand playing had a remarkable fluidity.
She took the Clair de lune movement of the Suite Bergamasque the slowest I have ever heard it played. There is always a danger with choosing that sort of tempo that things sound dragged or fall apart and become disjointed but last night the risk paid off. In a word it was "sublime" and I was as carried away as Miss Hewitt obviously was in this clip from a recent performance at CBC Toronto.
In a previous post I mentioned that Miss Hewitt will be giving a benefit concert at the newly re-built St Jude's Anglican Cathedral in Iqaluit this summer. The original cathedral, and many of the native tapestries and art work that adorned it, was destroyed by fire - reportedly arson - in 2005. The long struggle to rebuilt has been completed and the cathedral was consecrated in June 2012. Angela Hewitt has strong ties to the Anglican church and promised to go to Iqaluit and give a benefit concert when the building was completed. And on June 12 she will make good on that promise and I am sorely tempted to join her and a party of her Ottawa fans on the 2000 km journey to the North. We shall see.
20 February - 1959: The Avro Arrow program to design and manufacture supersonic jet fighters in Canada is cancelled by the Diefenbaker government amid much political debate.