Angela Hewitt's Atmospheric Take on Debussy's Piano Music

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We say goodbye this week to 2012, and with it, the Debussy anniversary year. But before 2013’s anniversary celebrations of Wagner, Verdi and Britten begin, we consider one Debussy recording that nearly slipped under our radar.

Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is known as one of today’s leading Bach pianists. Her devotion is so fervid that she even carried on with an all-Bach recital at Le Poisson Rouge while Hurricane Sandy was baring down on Oct. 28. Earlier that month, however, Hyperion released Hewitt's collection of Debussy’s major works for solo piano: the six pieces from Children’s Corner, the four-piece Suite bergamasque, the three-piece Pour le piano, the two great Arabesques and others.

Hewitt was careful to pick works that suit her musical personality. Her approach avoids Impressionistic wash and instead focuses on rhythmically precise, elegant and unfussy details. This is not a gauzy late Romantic Debussy but rather an interpretation that places Debussy at the forefront of 20th-century modernism.

Highlights include a rapturous Clair de lune, a colorful and witty Golliwog’s Cakewalk and tender Deux Arabesques. If the Children’s Corner suite is a little lacking in child-like charm, it is also prismatic in its color pallet. L’Isle joyeuse is exuberant from start to finish. In short, it's a welcome release from a pianist who has risked being typecast.

Angela Hewitt
Debussy – works for piano
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