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(2019 - Fall/Winter Issue)


Ottawa’s Angela Hewitt is arguably Canada’s best-known classical pianist. Her award-winning cycle of all the major keyboard works of Bach for Hyperion Records was described as being “one of the record glories of our age,” by the Sunday Times. She has recorded over 200 albums for Hyperion and has won four Juno awards. She has received an OBE from the Queen and in 2015 was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada status. Her discography is massive and includes Scarlatti, Schumann, Debussy and Messiaen. Her current concert project, The Bach Odyssey, has her performing all the keyboard works of J.S. Bach in a series of 12 concerts between 2016 and 2020, presenting the entire cycle in London, New York, Ottawa, Tokyo and Florence. 

Angela Hewitt was born into a musical family in Ottawa. Her father was a cathedral organist, choir master and music teacher. She was, however, encouraged to have a well-rounded childhood and studied ballet, violin and recorder and was involved in many activities that most youngsters do. Her performance at the 1985 Toronto International Bach Piano competition, held in memory of Glenn Gould, launched her into the international spotlight. It allowed her to record Bach solo keyboard music, leading critics to anoint her as one of the great Bach interpreters.

In 2005, she launched the annual Trasimeno Musical Festival in Umbria, in which she is featured in seven concerts over seven days, as a recitalist, chamber musician, song accompanist and conductor. She often plays in her hometown of Ottawa and is an ambassador for Orkidstra, a program in Ottawa’s inner city where commitment, teamwork and tolerance are taught while learning music!

Can you explain why and how you chose to create the Trasimeno Music Festival?

In 2002, I purchased property overlooking Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy, where I built a house. In 2004, I discovered the Castle of the Knights of Malta in Magione and its stunning 15th-century courtyard, which is ideal for chamber music concerts. The following year we had our first festival and people came from around the world. Many return every year.

How frequently do you travel in a typical year?

I’m on the road at least 10 months a year, if not more. I haven’t counted the number of concerts in a year for a long time: back in 2013 it was something like 133 days of concerts, masterclasses, recording sessions—which didn’t include travel and practices at home.

Do you follow routines for long-distance travel?

I hate spending time at the computer at home, so when I travel I do much of the business side of my career. I’ll watch a good film if there’s one on board—often Italian ones because I like to hear the language.

Do you have any general travel advice to share?

Always take a food container with you. As a travelling artist I never know where my next meal will be. Plus a tin of sardines—my emergency rations! A hot water bottle, travel kettle, universal plug and earplugs are other necessities I simply can’t live without. 

What advice do you have for young musicians who might want to pursue a musical career?

The most important thing is to love it and to really want to do it. If you’re not sure, do something else.

Is there anything about you people might be surprised to learn?

I don’t have a personal assistant. I book my own flights. I run my own online shop from a corner in my living room, taking packages to the post office myself. I’m my own cleaning lady—it’s good exercise! In short, I do most of the things people imagine I couldn’t possibly do since I’m a concert pianist. All that while constantly learning and memorizing new repertoire.

What do you love most about Canada?

As I travel the world, I appreciate how fortunate Canadians are. Canada has space, clean air (for the most part), is not an aggressive country. I hope we can keep the tolerant, open society we are so fortunate to have and which many people around the world idealize.

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