Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: in F,
Variations on Unser dummer Pöbel meint,
Fantasy in c,
Kristian Bezuidenhout (fp)
HARMONIA MUNDI 67729 (72:15)
The South African-born pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout commences a projected series of all of Mozart’s piano music with
this splendid new disc. His studies began in Australia and were completed at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester under Rebecca Penneys, Arthur Haas, Malcolm Bilson, and Paul O’Dette. He is the laureate of several competitions and now lives in London. He is an immensely talented player of great imagination, drawing from the fortepiano—in this case a replica by Derek Adlam of an Anton Walter instrument from the mid 1790s—a realm of color and nuance.
As a program opener, the great C-Minor Fantasy, K 475, provides an interesting point of departure, embodying as it does what are assumed to be many of the characteristics of Mozart’s own vaunted improvisations. Bezuidenhout deftly maneuvers through the disparate succession of affects, from the ominously dissonant chromaticism of the Adagio through the startling contrasts of light and color with a genuine spontaneity that is riveting. It is still debated whether this Fantasy should be performed together with the C-Minor Sonata, with which it was first published. But when Bezuidenhout cadences at the conclusion of the Adagio ritornello, it’s hard not to wish for further exploration of these somber climes.
Each of the two mature Viennese sonatas is imbued with such distinctively individual character that it seems almost astonishing to think that they were composed scarcely a year apart. The concluding Rondo of the F-Major Sonata unfurls with some of the most exquisite cantabile imaginable. Bezuidenhout never lets us forget that the composer of this sonata was also the greatest operatic genius of the age. Indeed it isn’t hard to imagine the exposition of the B?-Sonata’s opening Allegro fitted with text and serving as an opera
; its musical gestures and contours are expressively shaped in the manner of the very best singing.
Gluck’s arietta from
The Pilgrim of Mecca
inspired the most virtuosic of all Mozart’s variation sets and one can’t hope to hear it played with greater flair and élan than here. Bezuidenhout revels in Mozart’s playful changes of mood, from the angelic, to the mysterious, to the teasingly exhibitionistic. It’s a satisfying wrap-up to an astutely chosen recital, leaving us eager for the release of further volumes in this series, the sooner the better.
Harmonia Mundi’s superb engineering captures a rich and lifelike sound. Meanwhile, I hope we all get to hear a lot more from Kristian Bezuidenhout. Very highly recommended.
FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
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