The programme with which Angela Hewitt has been touring in recent weeks would have deterred most pianists. A keyboard suite by Handel paired with Brahms' Op 24 Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel is already a grand statement. Prefacing that with a first-half of a Bach partita and Beethoven's Eroica Variations, Op 35, made for a task best described as Promethean; Beethoven's theme comes from his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, and he used it again for the finale of the Eroica symphony.
In the opening prelude of the Bach's Partita in B flat major, BWV, Hewitt gave the impression of playing herself in gently, but the Allemande's rippling semiquavers immediately established a lively momentum, its moto perpetuo effect matched by the brilliant closing Gigue. By contrast, all of Beethoven's rhythmic quirkiness and ebullience emerged with considerable conviction in the theme and ensuing 15 variations, the final fugue imbued with the spirit of Bach, yet bearing Beethoven's unmistakably classical stamp.
Handel's Suite No 8 in F minor sounded all the more expressive for its plangency of key. While the St George's acoustic redoubled Hewitt's trademark clarity, it also meant that some of her inadvertent vocal droning carried more than usual. This was not a problem in the Brahms. Here, Hewitt created a natural ebb and flow within the sequence of 25 variations, thus ensuring that the 13th could take its place as the emotional core, and making the final fugue a suitably monumental climax not just to this work but to the whole evening. Hewitt's gracious bows are always counterpointed by a busy kind of nodding, as though saying, you're right to applaud this enthusiastically. Of course they are.