Kristian Bezuidenhout plays Mozart at Wigmore Hall

Kristian Bezuidenhout plays Mozart piano music at Wigmore Hall

Kristian Bezuidenhout 2010 Photo: Marco Borggreve

Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano) – Wigmore Hall, live on BBC Radio 3, 13 April 2015.

Listening link (opens in a new window):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05qdw80

on the iPlayer until 13 May

Spotify

In case you cannot hear the broadcast…Kristian Bezuidenout has recorded all of this music, save for the brief encore, as part of a complete series of Mozart’s solo piano works for Harmonia Mundi. A playlist of the works played in this concert can be found here

What’s the music?

Mozart – Piano Sonata in F major, K332 (c1783) (18 minutes) ((the ‘K’ number gives an indication of the work’s position in the Köchel catalogue of Mozart’s music)

Mozart – Adagio in F major (unknown) (6 minutes)

Mozart – Piano Sonata in D major, K284 (1775) (Dürnitz) (27 minutes)

What about the music?

mozart

The sound of the fortepiano (a very early form of the piano as we know it today) is definitely an acquired taste – and even then it has to be said not everybody acquires that taste. That is not to put you off listening to the music, but it is an advanced warning of sorts that this is a very different piano sound, one with sharp colours when played loudly. At times the sonorities approach that of a harpsichord, though with an instrument such as the one South African-born Kristian Bezuidenhout uses, a copy of an 1805 model, there is room for manoeuvre.

Kristian is in the process of recording all of Mozart’s work for the instrument, a sizeable canon that includes a number of memorable piano sonatas and several shorter but important standalone pieces. One of these is the Adagio inserted into the middle of the concert – though this is of doubtful authenticity, and may not be by Mozart at all.

The second sonata in this recital, K284, is almost twice as long as the first, and was completed in Munich for a friend of the composer’s, bassoonist Baron von Dürnitz.

Performance verdict

Kristian Bezuidenhout gives these pieces his all, leaving the listener in no doubt as to his total commitment to Mozart’s music. He adopts quite challenging speeds, the fast movements rushing along and even the slow ones being much faster than anticipated – at least in the case of the first sonata in the recital.

His right hand work is always very clear, especially when playing more than one note at once, so each of the inside parts can be heard. This is especially important with the fortepiano, where the notes do not necessarily sustain for as long.

If you are not a fortepiano enthusiast then hopefully Bezuidenhout’s graceful way with the Adagio in particular will go some way to winning you over.

What should I listen out for?

Piano Sonata in F, K332

1:37 – a genial beginning, but soon there is an outburst of storm and strife at 2:04, as Mozart wrenches the music into the minor key. Bezuidenhout exaggerates the contrasts between a relatively calm right hand and the occasionally stabbed notes in the left that give powerful energy to Mozart’s writing

8:31 – the slow movement, the middle of the three – and the most harmonically adventurous. Mozart enjoys some quite florid writing for the piano and uses the walking accompaniment to his advantage, writing music of unexpectedly profound expression. Bezuidenhout arguably plays it a bit too quickly here.

13:08 – a literal hammer blow starts this fast movement with a rapid clatter of notes. At times it sounds as though someone has sat on the lower end of the piano, such is the force of the playing! The fortepiano certainly brings alive the contrasts in Mozart’s writing for keyboard, and here Bezuidenhout uses it to bring out the bell-like figurations in the right hand. Towards the end there is a lovely, graceful touch from the pianist that brings us to a calm finish.

Adagio in F

21:26 – a tender, almost operatic piece of work where the right hand at times takes on the profile of a singer. There is a slightly mischievous element to the melody, which can overdo itself at times, but it is charming much of the time.

Piano Sonata in D, K284

29:18 – this piece starts with a flourish, and Bezuidenhout keeps a brisk tempo throughout. The first main theme is vigorous, the second a bit more thoughtful and graceful, especially when it appears the second time around at 31:18.

34:26 – a thoughtful second movement, and an airy one, with a lightness of touch that really suits the music. There is an attractive ‘question and answer’ between the hands.

39:18 – a long third movement, which is a theme and variations – a form in which Mozart excels. A relatively simple theme is heard to start with before the music heads through twelve very different reworkings of the source material, each one seemingly more difficult than the last! It is a chance for Mozart to really flex his compositional muscles. Of particular note is the variation at 44:31, where Mozart slows down rather. The variation finishing at 46:54 goes heavy on the bass, and is followed by a darker turn in the minor key. An unexpectedly tender episode at 51:36 finds the piano keys lightly brushed, the tempo slowed down dramatically. Finishes at 55:53

Encore

Mozart: Allemande from the Suite in C major, K399 (3 minutes)

57:21 – this short piece, described by the pianist as ‘enigmatic’, is part of a pastiche Mozart wrote, a Suite in the Style of Handel. It is surprisingly dark at times.

Want to hear more?

If more Mozart piano music is what you want, I would point you in the direction of some of the composer’s short and very profound single pieces. Two Rondos do the trick here, with a Fantasia and a late Adagio for good measure. All are played by Bezuidenhout, and included at the end of the Spotify playlist referenced above.

For more concerts click here

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