Recording of the Week: Kristian Bezuidenhout , Mozart: Keyboard Music Vols. 8 & 9

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Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano

This two disc set is the conclusion of Bezuidenhout’s series of recordings of Mozart on the fortepiano, all on Harmonia Mundi. Bezuidenhout has not recorded all of Mozart’s piano compositions, but the series amounts to a substantial body of music: the eighteen sonatas, concertos K. 453 and K. 482, a good helping of fantasies, rondos, variations, fragments, and more—ten discs altogether.

I am sorry to see this project come to an end, because there is nothing like these . Bezuidenhout is a great fortepiano player, he really understands what the different construction and string layout means for timbre and sustain, and has exceptional command of tone and color in all registers (one of the charms of the instrument is that the sound varies depending on how hight or low the pitch is). He is also a great Mozart player.

All these recordings show how much he understands the music,and how much one can do with it, but the opening of the first disc here is an ideal example: the Sonata in C Major, K. 545 (one of the most famous). In the opening sonata-allegro movement, Bezuidenhout ads wonderful ornaments and tiny improvisations whenever the theme is repeated, so organic and judicious that one both notices them and feels they were expressly composed by Mozart. In sequences, and during repeats as well, he is both expressive and judicious with rubato and, pauses, and explores free coordination between hands—you’ll hear this in the repeats as well.

In the Andante movements, Bezuidebhout captures the cantabile quality that is essential in Mozart, the sense that he was so often writing with a soprano, rather than an instrument, in his head.

Everything on here is superb: the Variations on “Dieu d’amour” is poised and moving; Sonata K. 279 has what I can only describe as an exceptional bourgeois quality, elegant and well-mannered, but full of humor; and the rarely heard Modulating Prelude in F-C, K. 624/626a is amazing, an outstanding composition given a bravura performance. Finish or start your fortepiano Mozart with this set, but do get it, unless you can’t bear the thought of not wanting to hear Mozart on the modern piano again.

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