CD Review: Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vols 8 & 9—Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano (Harmonia Mundi 907532.33, 2016, 153 minutes)

Kristian Bezuidenhout 2010Photo: Marco Borggreve

Kristian Bezuidenhout 2010 (Photo: Marco Borggreve)

Mozart enthusiasts like me will be sad to see that this installment brings to a close Mr. Bezuidenhout’s revelatory and superb traversal of all Mozart’s keyboard music. What an amazing experience it has been. This two-disc set pairs, like most of the others, early and late, obscure and evergreen. The program includes the sets of Variations K. 352 and K. 573 (Duport), a few sonata movements in completions by Robert Levin, and piano sonatas—among others (discussed below) are the ones in C (K. 279) and D (K. 576). In every case, the performances sparkle with clarity, erudition, and a palpable joy in music-making that is altogether rare today.

The set opens with the “simple” sonata in C Major, K. 545. As if throwing down a final gauntlet, Bezuidenhout supplies deft and completely appropriate varied reprises in the first movement and an absolutely heavenly, lyrical approach to the slow one—the latter, in particular, gives the music an unexpected depth and expressive character that I have never heard before.

Mozart’s earlier F-major Sonata (K. 280) is an altogether different beast, with the first movement’s strident, insistent bass octaves and almost acerbic wit. Bezuidenhout executes the transition to this cheekier, more incisive keyboard writing flawlessly, again including along the way an assortment of added passagework and ornamentation that suits it perfectly.

As a harpsichordist and Baroque enthusiast, I’m particular attracted to Mozart’s several essays that imitate that great music, among which the masterly G-major Gigue (K. 574) is one of the finest examples. And again I’m astounded by the way Bezuidenhout adjusts his approach to suit the music; by adding a touch more harpsichordistic articulation and phrasing, he reminds us that the keyboard players of the later eighteenth century were used to many different types of instruments and no doubt keenly attuned to the rich stylistic variety of the era.

In sum, careful listeners will detect in this collection the full range of Mozart’s inventiveness and scope of his piano writing, and as a result should gain from the performances novel insights and renewed inspiration in even the best known of his works included in this release. I hope to see plans for Bezuidenhout to record Mozart concertos and the sonatas of Beethoven and Haydn.

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