Monday, 1 February 2016

Kristian Bezuidenhout gives absolutely brilliant performances, showing his superb technique and fine musicianship on this new release of volume 8 and 9 in his ongoing series of the complete keyboard music of Mozart for Harmonia Mundi

Pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout was born in South Africa in 1979.  He began his studies in Australia before entering the Eastman School of Music. He now lives in London.  After initial studies as a modern pianist with Rebecca Penneys he explored early keyboards, studying harpsichord with Arthur Haas, fortepiano with Malcolm Bilson and continuo playing and performance practice with Paul O’Dette.

Bezuidenhout first gained international recognition at the age of 21 after winning the prestigious first prize as well as the audience prize in the Bruges Fortepiano Competition. He is now a frequent guest artist with the world’s leading ensembles including The Freiburger Barockorchester, Orchestre des Champs Elysées, Orchestra of the 18th Century, English Concert, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Concerto Köln, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and Collegium Vocale Gent, in many instances assuming the role of guest director. He has performed with celebrated artists including John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, Frans Brüggen, Trevor Pinnock, Ton Koopman, Christopher Hogwood, Pieter Wispelwey, Daniel Hope, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Isabelle Faust, Viktoria Mullova, Carolyn Sampson and Mark Padmore.

Since 2009, Bezuidenhout has embarked on a long-term partnership with Harmonia Mundi, recording Mendelssohn’s piano concertos with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and Schumann’s Dichterliebe with Mark Padmore, both winning Edison Awards. His recording of Beethoven violin sonatas with Viktoria Mullovafor the Onyx label won an Echo Award for the best chamber music album of 2011.  A disc of Mozart Piano Concertos (K. 453 & 482) with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra was released in November 2012.

Recent recordings for Harmonia Mundi  include Volumes 1, 2 & 3 of the complete keyboard music of Mozart which have been awarded Diapason D'or, a Caecilia Prize, and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik.

Now from Harmonia Mundi  comes a two CD set of volumes 8 and 9 in Bezuidenhout’s Mozart series.

HMU 907532.33

Kristian Bezuidenhout plays a fortepiano by Paul McNulty, Divisov, Czech Republic, 2009 after Anton Walter und Sohn, Vienna, 1805. 

Bezuidenhout rings an unaffected charm to the Allegro of Mozart’s Sonata in C major, K.545 (1788) with a fine rhythmic buoyancy and a rare fluency. There is a finely shaped Andante that brings a lovely gentle flow as well as a great deal of beauty with a beautiful phrased Rondo. There are many gorgeous moments in this performance with Bezuidenhout bringing something special.

8 Variations in F major on 'Dieu d'amour' by André Grétry, K. 352 (1781) has some beautifully rounded phrases with Bezuidenhout displaying a very fine touch, revealing some lovely moments as these variations develop. His playing is full of energy as he extracts some wonderful timbres and textures from this fine instrument.  
This is a wonderfully shaped performance, full of life.

The Ouverture of Mozart’s Suite in C major, K.399 (c.1782) has a strikingly grand opening that shows off this fortepiano at its finest. This pianist moves through some volatile passages finely conveyed here, full of fine rhythms and textures and finding a terrific forward drive. There is a lovely forward flow to the Allemande bringing much poetry with fine care of dynamics. This is exquisitely done with a seemingly endless flow of invention. The Courante brings the same sense of unstoppable forward flow with such engaging playing. Bezuidenhout brings a slow, thoughtfully developed Sarabande (completed by Robert Levin), full of carefully conceived dynamics together with fine textures and timbres.

There follows a wonderfully free Menuetto in D major, K. 355 (c.1789-91) revealing some of Mozart’s wonderful harmonies and the (Eine Kleine) Gigue in G major, K. 574 (1789) that really takes off with terrific phrasing and fine rhythms. This pianist brings a real strength and grandeur to the Kleiner Trauermarsch in C minor, K. 453a (1784) finding a dark hued drama.

The Sonata in F major, K.280 (1774-75) opens with a really buoyant Allegro assai, again providing terrific phrasing and dynamics as well as some beautifully played longer phrases. There is a most affecting Adagio where Bezuidenhout fully reveals his poetic side in a performance of great sensitivity with the most fine phrasing before a wonderful, rhythmically free, fast flowing Presto where he brings the most impressive display of fluency, a wonderful technique, handling this instrument superbly.

Bezuidenhout brings a fine poise to the 9 Variations in D major on a menuet by Jean-Pierre Duport, K. 573 (1789) developing the music to achieve a terrific flow.  Emperor Joseph II is alleged to have accused Mozart of ‘too many notes’ when referring to The Marriage of Figaro. There are notes aplenty here but this fine performer handles them with brilliant fluency as he moves through passages of richer sonorities, achieving some terrific fast passages. There are more deeply felt slower sections, beautifully done as well as some well sprung rhythmic passages with this pianist often highlighting the full range of this instrument.  

The second disc of this set, Volume 9 opens with Mozart’s Modulating Prelude in F-C, K. deest (K. 624/626a) (c.1777) where the pianist brings his wonderful fluency whilst exhibiting the fine tone of this fortepiano, with all its appealing timbres, textures and sonorities.

Bezuidenhout brings a bright and buoyant Allegro in the Sonata in C major, K.279 (1774-75) with a fine steady momentum, crisp phrasing and a fine rubato. He provides a fine flexible tempi and a lovely clarity too. With the Andante there is an attractive, gently flowing tempo with the most lovely little details, beautifully paced and phrased. The concluding Allegro is finely wrought with freely controlled tempi and dynamics and great care of phrasing, as well as such great dexterity.

The Allegro in B-flat major, K. 400 (completed by Robert Levin) (1781) is revealed as a most attractive piece, Bezuidenhout finding much in the ever changing moods and dynamics, drawing lovely textures and sonorities from this instrument . This is some classic Mozart.

Another completed (completed by Robert Levin) is the Allegro in G minor, K. 312 (1790). It opens with a grand statement before moving through some finely shaped passages, Bezuidenhout always finding variety to draw the ear.

There is some spectacularly fine, fluent playing in the opening Prelude of the Four Preludes, K. 284a (formerly Capriccio in C major, K. 395/300g) (1777). Broader sonorities are combined with more florid passages in the second Prelude, a crispness of delivery in the more volatile third before a fast moving, fluent fourth Prelude that nevertheless ends on a gentler note.

A crisply stated theme opens the 12 Variations in C major on a menuet by Johann Christian Fischer, K. 179 (1774) before it is slowly developed with some lovely phrasing and subtle rhythmic lifts. There is more crisp phrasing as the piece continues, always pointed up dynamically. This is a quite intoxicating performance with such beautifully and subtly varied dynamics and tempi. Later there is a wonderfully limpid, slow passage before the music races to a terrific, buoyant, rollicking coda.

To end the second disc Bezuidenhout brings us Mozart’s Sonata in D major, K.576 (1789) with a lively crisp Allegro performed with tremendous clarity within a forward flowing momentum, punctuated by moments of more restrained calm and poetry. There is a finely paced Adagio with moments of tremendous forward thrust and intensity before a soft, gentle coda. The Allegretto is crisply pointed, showing more of Bezuidenhout’s fine fluent touch with a lovely understated coda to end this fine disc.   

Kristian Bezuidenhout gives absolutely brilliant performances here, showing his superb technique and fine musicianship. He is given a wonderful recording full of sparkle and clarity, with a fine fortepiano tone. There are informative booklet notes together with details of tuning and temperament.  

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