On Sunday night, the Usher Hall welcomes one of the leading lights of contemporary classical music in the form of Angela Hewitt. Conducted by Yutaka Sado, and playing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, this will be a prime opportunity to hear live one of the most gifted musical interpreters of our time. , I had the opportunity to ask a few questions ahead of the big night in Edinburgh.
SCOTT: Having performed all around the world, how does coming to a city like Edinburgh compare to audiences elsewhere, and how strong do you feel the desire for and love of classical music is at the moment?
ANGELA: For many years now, I have always had wonderful audiences in the UK, and Edinburgh is no exception. Of course I have fond memories of my Edinburgh Festival appearances (especially my debut in 2002 playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a late-night concert in the Usher Hall that was completely packed out), but when I’ve played there during the year, the audiences have always been extremely attentive and appreciative. My mother’s parents came to Canada from Scotland (they were from Hawick in the Borders), and my mother taught in Edinburgh for a year back in 1950, so Scotland has a special place in my heart. The UK has a very vibrant musical scene that is envied by most countries around the world, so even though it is always a struggle to keep things going, it’s definitely worth it!
As you have hit the Billboard charts in America, and received an OBE for your work, how much of an impact do you feel you have personally had on the resurgence and continued interest in classical music in the modern age?
Well, I hope that my music-making has inspired not just young pianists who aspire themselves to a career in music, but that it has also brought joy and comfort to music-lovers all around the world. I certainly get lots of letters and messages attesting to that fact. And that’s why I do it: because of the enormous pleasure it gives people. It adds something special to their lives. When they come out of a concert of mine, I like them to feel they are somehow different people, that their lives have at least temporarily been enhanced; that the music has made them think of many things, caused them to be in touch with emotions that perhaps they didn’t know were there and which they were hiding even to themselves. That’s what it’s all about really. So I’m happy if I can do my part in keeping alive the musical traditions that have brought so much beauty into the world.
Lastly, do you find there is a lot of interest in classical music from the younger generations, and how important do you feel it is to keep younger people engaged in classical music?
Recently I performed Bach in Hong Kong, and I would say that the average age of the audience was 16 years old. And they were all following the music with the score in hand! Wonderful! This would never happen in Europe or America in a normal concert like that. But in Asia the parents and teachers encourage the learning of Western classical music as part of a complete education, which is what makes all the difference. It’s great to see these children and teenagers so enthusiastic about Bach Fugues! If only we in the West had the same values, but unfortunately it is not so these days. Classical music has vanished from many homes and schools. So it’s important that orchestras and musicians of every type try to play for young people at every opportunity so that at least some of them will end up being the audience of the future. There are many young people involved in classical music, and they need every possible encouragement.
Catch Angela and the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra on Sunday the 28th of October at 19.30 – tickets available here.