Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Feature: Interview - Angela Hewitt on Keys on The Street (Luminato)

(photo by Bernd Eberle)
The Piano, the Dancer and the City
by Kallee Lins

One of the world’s leading pianists, Angela Hewitt regularly appears in recital and with major orchestras throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia. Her performances and recordings of Bach have drawn particular praise, marking her out as one of the composer's foremost interpreters of our time. The 2013/14 season includes concerts at Seoul Arts Centre, Tokyo’s Oji Hall and Nagoya’s Shirakawa Hall; Glasgow’s City Halls and The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh; Wimbledon Music Festival, Sociedad Filarmónica de Bilbao, the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, and De Doelen, Rotterdam; as well as several appearances at Wigmore Hall, London. In addition Angela Hewitt will undertake a tour of Australia with Musica Viva, performing recitals in major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane,

Keys on the Street – A recital of Urban Dance and Piano brings together the international pianist and preeminent performer of Bach, Angela Hewitt, and renowned dancer, choreographer and So You Think You Can Dance Canada judge, Tré Armstrong, for an unlikely merging of artistic genres. Armstrong has been working with a group of urban dancers to choreograph Hewitt’s interpretations of Debussy, Bach and other classical composers. CharPo contributor Kallee Lins caught up with Ms Hewitt about such a radical departure from her usual concert circuit. 

CHARPO: How exactly did Keys on the Street come about? 

HEWITT: It was actually the idea of Jorn Weisbrodt who is the Artistic Director of the Luminato Festival. We were in touch about a lot of things and he  loved my playing and he wanted to bring it to a wider audience… to a different audience, perhaps, than in the standard concert hall. I don’t know Tré. I’ve never met her, but he had this idea of pairing us together and I watched some of her stuff and thought it was great, so I went “Ok, I’ll try it.” This is very much a first time and I don’t really know how it’s going to come out, but we’ll see. 

I tried to choose music that I felt was danceable – I mean, I was a classical ballet dancer myself for 20 years, so I have a feeling for dance.  Of course I never did urban dance, but I know what it’s about.  It’s all great music.  It’s all beautiful music.  And something like Bach’s Goldberg Variations which is the main part of the program –  40-45 minutes – that’s really one of the great masterpieces of Western music, and I’m very interested to see what Tré’s done with it. She’s been working to tapes that I sent her because we’re not in the same part of the world, but we will be getting together several times before the event and that should be really exciting.  This will be the first time ever that I’ve been up on a stage playing in a concert with dancers at the same time. Something I’ve thought of in the past; first time I’m actually doing it. I think we both will have to be flexible.

CHARPO: What is it that makes this music “danceable”— either for ballet or urban dance? 

HEWITT: For dance you always need a great rhythm and Bach, of course, has that. Most of Bach’s music, which was written 250 years ago or more, was based on the dances of the time, the French dances. That’s what’s responsible for a large amount of the joy in this music, and also why jazz people have picked up on Bach as well. It’s that really great rhythm in it. 

And the Debussy that I’ve chosen—I mean one piece, the Golliwog’s Cakewalk—that’s based on ragtime, really, so that’s an obvious thing. Something like Clair de lune which is a very famous piece, has got beautiful lines in it, beautiful expression. There’s a sense of movement. It’s all music that has a great sense of movement, and of line, and those are things that, of course, are important to a dancer.  

CHARPO: Since you’ve spent so much time with Bach throughout your career, I’m wondering what you think Bach might have to say about this collaboration between his piano music and urban dance.  

HEWITT: He was a pretty open person. I think he would be the first person to accept something like that, really.  Just the fact that I’m playing his music on an instrument that didn’t even exist in his time, the piano. He was so forward in his thinking and very interested in the first piano being made at the time – the forerunner of the piano.  He had an open mind to all sorts of influences. His own art was based on being influenced by the French style, the Italian style, the old German style and he sort of put that all together and out came his own music. So, yes, I think he would have been looking forward to it as I am. 

CHARPO: Do you think this project will be successful in introducing urban dance fans to classical and vice versa?

HEWITT: Well, I hope so. That’s why we’re doing it. I think it will be very attractive anyway. I’ve seen one example of it -Yo-Yo Ma the very famous American cellist playing a piece called The Swan with an urban dancer. That works very beautifully, I think, and inspired me to go ahead with this idea. I know the audience will go away thinking that it is something that can be done. 

June 11

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