For Olivier Messiaen, Sunday was sacrosanct. For more than six decades, he was organist of the Holy Trinity in Paris, having been appointed there for the first time at the age of 20 in 1929. Remarkably, that same year also saw the appearance of his first published compositions, the eight Préludes pour piano, So it seemed fitting that six of them were at the heart of Angela Hewitt’s Sunday Morning Recital at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Part of Debussy’s aura can be heard, but Messiaen’s distinctive musical language – ecstatic and enigmatic – is already present. From the delicate wing beats of the first, La Colombe (La Colombe) to the virtuoso figurations of the eighth, A reflection in the wind (A reflection in the wind) passing from gentle sighing breezes to tumultuous gusts, Hewitt brought everyone prelude to an intense and wonderfully controlled expressive concentration. For those who only associate Angela Hewitt with Bach, this would surely have been a revelation.
Two relatively early Mozart sonatas – K309 in C major and K282 in B flat major – had Hewitt’s characteristic clarity of rhythm and articulation, with a careful nuance of dynamics to vary phrases and repeated sections. The sustain pedal was only used sparingly, but gave warmth to the sound of K282’s central movement, helping to underline how unusual Mozart’s indication of Andante Amoroso actually was.
Hewitt seemed to almost relax in Chopin’s two Nocturnes, Op 55, and indeed enjoy finding a range of colors on the Steinway piano rather than his usual Fazioli, this concert being one of RWCMD’s Steinway Series. To lyricism was added drama and demonstration in Chopin Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Hewitt in full force. His recall was Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s song Widmung, the composer’s wedding gift to his beloved Clara, all in love.