A remarkably gifted artist

Gramophone

The English pianist Anthony Hewitt (b1971) is the winner of several competitions (though not, as the booklet claims, the William Kapell International Piano Competition – he was awarded joint second place in 1992 when no first prize was given). He is a remarkably gifted artist and though recordings of the Liszt Sonata are not exactly thin on the ground (roughly 70 are currently available) this account can hold its own with some of the finest. It is a pleasure to hear the left-hand figurations, such an important feature of this work, given due but not overwhelming prominence, allied to a superb leggiero touch and a beautifully even, silken sound.

Recordings of the Reubke Sonata by comparison are sadly few (six in the catalogue, not counting Hamish Milne's pioneering 1977 recording on L'Oiseau-Lyre – nla). Hewitt's trump card is that his is, surprisingly, the first recording to couple the Reubke and the Liszt. The two have many obvious parallels, not least the acutely dotted principal theme of both, the three-in-one movement structure, their daring exploration of tonality and the final major-key resolution of both. Hewitt is no less persuasive and fluent here, though Claudius Tanski (MDG, 11/89) brings greater weight and musical imagination to bear throughout – the Wagnerlike maestoso – andante sostenuto section at 12'04" for instance, the handling of the quirky 6/8 allegro agitato rhythm at 25'46" and the presto octaves at 26'51". Not that you will be able to find these or any individual sections tracked here or in the Liszt, the one black mark against this welcome issue.

Jeremy Nicholas

An exciting rendition of the Beethoven

New York Times — February 2008

The excellent British pianist Anthony Hewitt played with fleet technique, impressive clarity and a wide range of tonal colours...an exciting rendition of the Beethoven

A player who obviously possesses a strong affinity with this style lends a compelling authority.

Classical Web

This is a valuable and enterprising release, featuring a seemingly obvious coupling for the first time on CD. The Liszt 'B minor' is no stranger to the catalogue, but the rarer Reubke Sonata has also been lucky to have received some fine recordings in recent years, notably those by Till Fellner and Jeremy Filsell, the latter coupled with the Organ Sonata on the 94 th Psalm. To be able to listen to two such fine performances side by side by a player who obviously possesses a strong affinity with this style lends this release a compelling authority.

Reubke is one of the might-have-beens of nineteenth century music, tragically dying at the age of twenty four. It seems all the more miraculous then that he managed to write two such important and substantial pieces. The Organ Sonata is one of the staples of the repertoire, and is arguably a more successful work than his teacher Liszt's Fantasia and Fugue on "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" on which it is based. It has a thematic unity and economy of invention that is lacking in sections of the Piano Sonata, even taking into consideration the different resources. Perhaps he would have revised it if he had lived longer, a luxury Liszt was granted during his long life. Yet in such a sympathetic recording as this, its mixture of youthful exuberance and virtuosity more than make up for any structural question marks.

Hewitt's grasp of the narrative aspects of Liszt's Sonata is strong, as is his ability to lend a sense of inevitability to each section. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, the number of recordings of this piece is bewildering, ranging from the devil-may-care Argerich to the more cerebral Brendel. Hewitt seems to fall into the latter camp, being more intent to focus on the purely musical aspects of the score than in showing off his considerable technique. In his quest to achieve a unified interpretation - perhaps highlighted by providing just one CD track for each piece - I sometimes felt he under-emphasised the climactic moments, particularly in the slow movement build-up, but its fluency and drive are impressive on any level.

For me this release is particularly valuable for the Reubke Sonata: its importance in the repertoire is not fully appreciated and such a recording as this will win it many new converts. The CD notes are informative and detailed and the recording is clean and truthful.

Robert Costin

Anthony Hewitt's performance is exemplary in all respects...

Classical Music Net

This disc is more of an accolade to Liszt's acumen as a teacher rather than to his dazzling brilliance as composer and virtuoso. The Sonata in B minor is one of the greatest masterpieces of the piano repertoire, and with its ambivalent moods and introspective structure, is very difficult to bring off.

Anthony Hewitt's performance is exemplary in all respects and he captures the work's inner turmoil with uncanny ease. Nonetheless, the highlight of this CD is Johann Reubke's work, which is a very rare piece that deserves to be heard much more frequently.

Johann rebuke was one of Liszt's most distinguished pupils and was earmarked for a great career. Tragically, death struck him down when he was only 24. The Sonata dates from 1857, one year before his demise, and is very much in the mould of his master's work. Maybe it does lack a certain profundity, but it is certainly not short of dramatic intensity and also lyrical serenity, alternating between the two moods in quite perfect harmony.

Hewitt reveals a strong predilection for this work, and his involvement in the music is commendable. A beautifully presented album which is worth having just for the Reubke work alone.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech.

A Magisterial Performance

International Record Review, March 2008

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