Victoria scores classical coup

What: Angela Hewitt, piano.

When/where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral.

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Tickets: $45. Call 250-386-6121; online at; in person at the Royal and McPherson Box Offices. VIP packages $150; call 250-658-6014 or email">


On Saturday, Victoria will have the rare opportunity to play host to one of classical music’s biggest stars when pianist Angela Hewitt appears in concert as part of Christ Church Cathedral’s 150th-anniversary celebrations.

Though she has been based in London since 1985, Hewitt is Canadian. She was born in Ottawa in 1958. She has performed twice with the Victoria Symphony, but the last time was in 1994, and she has never given a solo recital here.

(She will also lead a masterclass for four advanced students, Friday at 10 a.m. at Christ Church Cathedral. It is free and open to the public.)

The recital is a benefit in support of Christ Church’s 150th Anniversary Fund and the Godfrey Hewitt Memorial Fund, which supports young organists through a graduate scholarship, a competition prize and other programs.

Godfrey Hewitt was Angela’s father. Born in England in 1909, he served for half a century as organist and choir master at Ottawa’s Christ Church Cathedral. The Memorial Fund was established in 2002, the year of his death, and his daughter’s benefit concerts have been crucial to its endowment.

Hewitt was invited to Victoria by a local couple who have known her for 30 years and who co-chair Christ Church’s music committee: Ian Alexander, the cathedral’s Bishop’s Warden, and his wife, Marilyn Dalzell, president of the Victoria Summer Music Festival. Before moving here in 2007, both had long careers with the CBC in Toronto, and they came to know Hewitt while covering an international Bach competition held there in 1985.

Hewitt won that competition, and about the same time made her New York and London debuts; she has since performed all over the world, giving as many as 100 concerts a year.

Today, there are few pianists as successful or admired. Her many honours include the Order of Canada, the Order of the British Empire, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, four Juno Awards and six honorary degrees.

Hewitt has long been particularly admired as a performer of Bach’s music, which figures prominently in her concerts and among her dozens of CDs (most on the Hyperion label).

But she has an immense repertoire, taking in a wide range of Baroque, classical and Romantic music as well as some modern fare, including works written especially for her. She commands the standard Austro-German and Slavic repertoires but also has strong affinities with Spanish and especially French music, from Couperin to Messiaen.

Her recital on Saturday will include some Bach: the Italian Concerto plus, appropriately, three of the 17 arrangements of popular Bach pieces she recorded for a 2001 album dedicated to her father, who introduced her to Bach. The program also includes Beethoven’s Les adieux Sonata and four sonatas by Scarlatti. (She is in the midst of recording all of Beethoven’s sonatas, and will soon release her first Scarlatti album.)

The program culminates in music by Liszt — not a composer with whom Hewitt has ever been closely associated, although her most recent CD, released in February, is devoted to Liszt, and has been garnering glowing reviews. Her recital will close with one of the three gorgeous Sonetti del Petrarca and the epic Dante Sonata, both of which appear on the new CD.

Hewitt will be playing a three-metre Model F278 concert grand by the Italian maker Fazioli, on loan from Showcase Pianos in Vancouver. Faziolis are handmade, scarce and expensive: The F278’s list price is $275,000. (There are cheaper Ferraris.)

Founded only in 1981, this upstart company has managed to seduce many of the world’s top pianists, generally at the expense of venerable Steinway & Sons. Hewitt is an eager, vocal champion of the Fazioli brand — so much so that she was dropped as a Steinway Artist in 2002.

She owns three Faziolis herself, one for each of her homes, in London and Ottawa and on Lake Trasimeno, in Umbria, Italy, where she founded an annual music festival in 2005. She records on a Fazioli, and uses one in concert whenever possible.

But pianos don’t make music, pianists do, and a recital by Hewitt, especially in a modest-size city like ours, would count as big news even if she were seated at a barroom upright.

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