Mozart: Keyboard Music Vols 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Keyboard Music
PERFORMER: Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907497 & HMU 907498

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Kristian Bezuidenhuit’s Mozart cycle gets off to a fine start with two volumes containing deeply-felt performances of some of the very greatest among the solo keyboard works. When the dramatic C minor Sonata K457 first appeared in print, at the end of 1785, Mozart prefaced it with a Fantasy in the same key (K475) he had recently composed.

But many musicians feel, and with good reason, that the Sonata’s impact is weakened when it is preceded by the equally intense fantasy; and in splitting the pieces between these two CDs Bezuidenhout is nailing his colours to the mast. His account of the Sonata is vividly characterised and full of imaginative strokes, though his treatment of the opening movement’s main subject is curious.

The subject incorporates a trill that is preceded by a split-second upbeat at the same pitch as the trill’s lower note. It is the tiny upbeat that gives the theme an important part of its rhythmic impetus, yet Bezuidenhout ignores it altogether, and simply begins the trill each time on the main beat. Moreover, his hesitations between the subject’s individual phrases are a feature that informs a good few of these performances: the gaps he makes between sections in the rondo of the deceptively simple Sonata K570, and in the first movement of the sparkling C major K330. It’s a mannerism that occasionally makes the music sound rather segmented.

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There’s no doubt, however, that these performances leave a strong impression. Among the highlights is Bezuidenhout’s expressive account of the tragic A minor Rondo K511. Elsewhere, Bezuidenhout is unfailingly imaginative with his own ornamentation. The reproduction Anton Walter pianos he uses are warm and sonorous. Misha Donat