Hewitt becomes first woman to receive Leipzig Bach medal

Angela Hewitt. Photo: Keith Saunders

It’s probably the most fitting award Angela Hewitt has had in many years, even her Governor-General’s lifetime achievement award.

The Ottawa native has been awarded the City of Leipzig Bach Medal.

The woman, who is on a three year long Bach Odyssey, and who has recorded the master’s works for piano, will receive her gong on June 20, 2020, at an award ceremony and concert during the city’s annual Bachfest. Hewitt will play the Goldberg Variations in a concert that day sponsored by the Canada Councl and the federal government.

Hewitt also becomes the first woman to get this award. She was chosen for it by a jury including the president of the Bach Archive, Prof. Dr. Ton Koopman and its director, Professor Dr. Peter Wollny, Thomaskantor Prof. Gotthold Schwarz, Gewandhaus kapellmeister Andris Nelsons and the rector of the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre Professor Martin Kürschner.

The jury wrote the following: “Never since the Canadian Glenn Gould has there been an artist who has placed Bach interpretations on the modern concert piano at the centre of their work as much as Gould’s compatriot, Angela Hewitt.”

Hewitt said on her facebook page that “I feel deeply honoured to be awarded the Bach Medal of the City of Leipzig. The news came as a complete surprise, and moved me tremendously.

“To receive such an award from the city which is synonymous with Johann Sebastian Bach, and to be added to such a distinguished list of former recipients, is more than I could ever have imagined.

“Leipzig has always had a special place in my heart since I first went there in 1976 as a competitor in the International Bach Competition; and Bach himself—well, I guess there’s no other person with whom I have spent so much of my life, and yet every minute has been worth it.

“It has given me great happiness to take Bach to all corners of the globe, and to see the comfort and joy it brings people of all backgrounds. I would like to dedicate this award to my musician parents who both adored Bach and Leipzig — especially my organist father who made Bach so alive to me as a child.”

Hewitt’s Bach Odyssey returns to Ottawa next May 5.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.