The Canadian pianist will perform works by Scarlatti, Liszt and Beethoven, as well as J.S. Bach on Monday, May 18.

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For well over two decades, Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt’s artistry has been synonymous with the keyboard music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750). As a child, she was taught Bach both by her father, who was organist at an Ottawa cathedral for 50 years, and by her mother, who became a pianist after studying with her father.

“I played Bach on the violin, I sang Bach, I danced to Bach,” Hewitt says. “It was always in the house. Not only that, but my parents very wisely knew that it was the basis of any good keyboard playing. Whether or not a pianist plays Bach in concert, if they don’t study it well, you lose a lot, because it teaches not only independence of every finger, but also beauty of line, good sound, phrasing and articulation, and all the basics of musical intelligence.”

Yet, beyond a 2012-13 world tour in which she performed Bach’s final work, The Art of Fugue, and a definitive Bach discography that includes, so far, 25 CDs plus a performance/lecture DVD in which she makes a solid case for playing Bach on a modern Fazioli piano, she has explored the music of many other great composers, from the 17th century’s Couperin to the 20th century’s Messiaen.


Angela Hewitt

7:30 p.m. Monday, May 18, Meany Theater, University of Washington, Seattle; $40-$45 (206-543-4880 or

Hewitt’s recent non-Bach recordings will figure strongly in her May 18 recital at the University of Washington. Along with Bach’s Italian Concerto and his Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, she will perform Scarlatti Sonatas; Liszt’s “Après une Lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata” (a sonata “After the Reading of Dante”); and Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat major, “Les Adieux.”

“Scarlatti and Liszt really go well together,” she claims. “Both were virtuosos at their respective keyboards of harpsichord and piano, and both had tremendous imaginations. Liszt was also known to have played some of Scarlatti’s sonatas in concert.” To make the connection even more explicit, she has chosen to honor Scarlatti’s Italian heritage with two of Liszt’s Italian-based pieces.

Hewitt first began performing Beethoven’s “Les Adieux” last year with the goal of recording it this summer as part of the fifth volume in her ongoing project of recording the complete Beethoven sonata series. She also saw the release of her Liszt CD several months ago, and recorded Scarlatti sonatas in February, for issue early next year.

“Beethoven always goes well with Bach because Beethoven grew up playing Bach,” she says. “I suppose that because, in my Bach, I think so much of different voices; in Beethoven, I really focus on that as well. That’s the advantage of being a Bach player and then looking at a Beethoven sonata. You have to master a beautiful legato and the singing tone of Baroque music to bring out all the different voices in Beethoven.”

Just as playing Bach and other Baroque composers has facilitated Hewitt’s journey through Beethoven, so has her early study of ballet taught her to respond to music as would a dancer. “You have to be conscious of the strong beats, the weak beats, the beats that are into the ground, and the beats that are up into the air,” she says.

“Dance training also helps you get the right tempo, and ensure it’s not too fast. That’s really important in Bach, where so much of his music is dance music. If the gigues or whatever were too fast, you could never dance to them. So dance does inform everything I do, including posture at the piano, presentation, stamina and discipline. I certainly got that from my ballet teacher, who was a real battle-ax.”