Mozart: Keyboard Music Vols 5 & 6; 7

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Keyboard Music Vols 5 & 6; 7
PERFORMER: Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: (Vol 5&6) HMU 907529-30; (Vol 7) HMU 907531

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Keyboard music, Vols 5 & 6:
Sonata in A, K331; Six Variations on ‘Salve tu, Domine’; Romanze in A flat, K Anh 205; 12 Variations in B flat; Sonata in C, K309; 12 Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je Maman’; Sonata in E flat, K282; Adagio in F, K Anh 206a; Sonata in B flat, K281; 12 Variations on ‘La belle Françoise’

Vol. 7:
9 Variations on ‘Lison Dormait’ in C; Sonata in A minor, K310; 6 Variations on ‘Mio Caro Adone’ in G; Sonata in D, K284

The latest three volumes in Kristian Bezuidenhout’s traversal of Mozart’s solo piano oeuvre – Nos 5 and 6 presented as a two-CD album, No. 7 separately – maintain the standard that has already won the cycle high praise. The non-chronological programming of the discs attractively intersperses sonatas with single pieces such as Mozart’s numerous essays in variation form. Bezuidenhout plays a copy of an 1805 Viennese fortepiano from the Alexander Skeaping collection, recorded with a perfect combination of clarity, intimacy and justness of perspective. And in every bar Bezuidenhout establishes his complete mastery over the instrument by means of an extraordinary delicacy and refinement of touch and shading.

He’s a remarkable virtuoso, and a dazzlingly imaginative, multi-skilled Mozartian. He decorates repeats with style and wit; his sonata finales unfailingly reach a dramatically rousing finish – the climax of the hackneyed ‘Alla turca’ of K331 seems for once wholly fresh and exhilarating. A love of expressive detail, though, finds him habitually slowing to relish the moment. This can work extremely well in the piecing together of a theme-and-variations structure, where contrast is of the essence – as he shows in delightfully animated accounts of the all-too-familiar Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman set, and of those sonata movements (eg the spectacular finale of K284 in D) that are themselves ingeniously constructed of theme and variations.

But in a seamlessly unfolded piece such as the unexpectedly pensive Adagio opening of the E flat Sonata K282, the interpreter’s feet go on and off the accelerator and brake pedals, and natural expressive flow suffers as a result. Clifford Curzon, greatest of keyboard Mozartians, once claimed that the key to playing Mozart was possessing what he called the gift of ‘“second simplicity”, that second naivety you arrive at after having gone through all the difficulties, having come through all the tests, and out the other side’. It’s that ‘other side’ that I find missing in these brilliant but self-conscious sonata readings.

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Max Loppert