Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Keyboard Music Vol.2 (fortepianist: Kristian Bezuidenhout) Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Bezuidenhout really does Mozart’s solo piano music the fullest justice.

Graham Rogers 2011

While certainly not neglected, an area of Mozart's prolific output which remains less well-known than many others is his solo piano music. Less flamboyant or widely appealing than the piano concertos, much of the solo repertoire feels intimate and smaller in scope as well as scale. Mozart was obviously pushing boundaries with the often operatic and grandiose style of his concertos, but the solo sonatas are frequently perceived as more humble, maintaining an almost antique quality. This perception has not been helped by a modern-day pianistic tradition that treats the sonatas with kid-gloves, rendering them as no more than pretty porcelain pieces. The sonatas are certainly less ostentatious than the concertos, but they are nevertheless packed with musical delights which leap from the page when tackled in the fully engaging manner of Kristian Bezuidenhout.

Bezuidenhout plays on a copy of a piano such as Mozart would have played himself, which helps enormously with the task of bringing the music to life. Modern concert grands are capable of vast dynamic range yet, paradoxically, pianists often feel hamstrung by their instruments' potentially overwhelming power, and compensate by underplaying. Bezuidenhout, in contrast, is able to really let rip when the music demands, and achieves great expressiveness through subtle fluctuations in tempi and articulation. There have been a few recordings on historical instruments made in recent decades, but Bezuidenhout rivals them all for the breadth of understanding he brings to the music, and his astonishing inflections of colour. He is able to make the fortepiano really sing – such an important aspect of Mozart’s music.

Volume one of this projected complete survey was issued nearly a year before this latest instalment, so Bezuidenhout is clearly in no hurry to wrap it all up, but the slow-burn approach does allow us to fully savour each release. The gems in Volume two include an impassioned (but never overblown) account of the substantial C minor Sonata K.457; appealing freshness in the bright-and-breezy C major Sonata K.330; an intense and fluid performance of the almost painfully poignant Adagio in B minor K.540; and two contrasting Rondos. With the album thoughtfully programmed to work well as a whole recital, this is shaping up to be a truly great cycle that does Mozart’s solo piano music the fullest justice.

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