Angela Hewitt’s mixed-bill recitals of Bach and Beethoven don’t always come off – her Beethoven can lack weight and authority – and for her Wigmore concert she took what looked like a risk, pairing two of Bach’s English Suites with two sonatas reflecting Beethoven in his most off-the-wall mood.
Yet the combination worked beautifully, with Bach’s Houdini-like contrapuntalism matched by Beethoven’s manic shifts in mood and tempo. Hewitt delivered the playfully stumbling opening movement of the Sonata in E flat Opus 31 No 3 with such spontaneity that one felt it was being created by fits and starts on the spot; its Scherzo seemed to tumble through space.
With the exquisite F sharp major sonata she perfectly captured the airy, watercolour charm with which the music periodically liberates itself from the gravely emphatic theme which forms its armature; the finale, with its crazily oblique figurations, seemed airborne from start to finish.
For the Bach suites which book-ended these works, Hewitt found the ideal idiom with a firm and full-blooded sound. The Sarabande of the third suite had a dark plangency reinforced by delicate rubato and an expressive heaviness in ornamentation; her bravura account of the demonic Gigue of the sixth, with its extraordinary inversions, took the hall by storm.