Rhinegold Photo credit: Jimmy Katz
Angela Hewitt: ‘There are no two ways about it: people always like Bach best’

Owen Mortimer

Free for all

8:30, 28th April 2020

Angela Hewitt considers the importance of staying musically connected during the coronavirus lockdown, but hopes it won’t set a precedent for giving away classical music for free

Why have you decided to share your videos on social media during this period?

I think it’s important for my friends, fans and future fans around the world to still be able to hear me play. They are certainly immensely grateful in their comments – looking forward to it each morning, or listening last thing at night, depending on which part of the world they are in. If they are happy, then I am happy too.

How can music help listeners during times of difficulty?

I think it soothes many people and takes their minds off the terrible situation we’re in – even just for a moment. It brings back memories of happy times: certain pieces can recall key moments in their life or important people, perhaps long gone. Music sustains us, and gives us an important outlet for our feelings. And if it brings a smile to the face or a laugh, then so much the better!

Which repertoire works best?

I’m putting out very short pieces because that’s all I can do on my iPhone, plus Twitter doesn’t take anything longer than 140 seconds. So that limits what I put out there. I choose things that are immediately appealing – either a well-known piece that many students and amateurs have studied, or else Bach. Because there are no two ways about it: people always like Bach best. I also think very carefully about whether it’s a piece I don’t mind ‘donating’ free to the world – and that doesn’t take away from my recent album recordings. I would prefer they buy the CD to support my record label!

What feedback have you received from fans?

Wonderful comments, I must say. It inspires many people – encouraging them to get back to the piano and giving them ideas for pieces to learn. Every day I think I might have to stop, but then I read the comments and think, ‘Oh dear, I’ll have to keep going’!

Is the experience different from other live concerts and broadcasts you’ve given?

Well of course. First of all, I am only filming my hands, not my face. I don’t feel it’s a time to focus on me the person – not at all. We’re going through such a tragic time, and anyway, I’ve given up wearing make-up and lipstick for now! So it’s best not to see me.

People are fascinated by seeing my hands up close. Actually, I’ve never really watched them myself for any amount of time, so it’s interesting to see all the very subtle fingering I do – silently changing fingers on the same note. A lot of it is Baroque fingering, avoiding the thumb.

I’ve been asked to give full recitals from my living room, but I really don’t want to do that. I need a live audience. Having said that, though, it might still come to it if we can’t get back into concert halls for a long time to come. Let’s hope not. But then I’d have to buy a proper video camera and learn how to use it. It’s not easy doing all that when you’re at home alone.

Do you think this experience will change the way we share and consume music in the future?

I hope it doesn’t set the dangerous precedent of classical music always being available for free. That worries me. Because so many people’s livelihoods depend on it not being for free. Besides, why should it be? There’s still nothing like a live concert with a concentrated and enthusiastic audience in a beautiful venue. Plus having a great concert grand piano in marvellous acoustics (NOT one’s living room) – that’s something else altogether. I just hope it’s not too long before people can congregate again, otherwise we’re in for big trouble.

Angela Hewitt’s daily videos can be viewed via Facebook and Twitter

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