Classical CD Reviews

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G; Rondo in A; Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major – Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano/ Freiburger Barockorchester/ Petra Muellejans – Harmonia mundi

A special disc, this period-instruments realization of Mozart mature keyboard works, inscribed with rare fervor by Bezuidenhout and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

Published on November 12, 2012

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G; Rondo in A; Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major – Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano/ Freiburger Barockorchester/ Petra Muellejans – Harmonia mundi

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453; Rondo in A Major, K. 386; Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482 – Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano/ Freiburger Barockorchester/ Petra Muellejans – Harmonia mundi HMC 902147, 72:41 ****:

Another string to the harp of the “authenticity movement,” the musical contribution of fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout (b. 1979) adds a decided luster to the realization of Mozart’s piano concertos, the keyboard part’s serving as both continuo and solo in the course of Mozart’s progressions. The streamlined sound of the Baroque Orchestra perfectly complements the more intimate conventions of the fortepiano’s range of sonority. Recorded in May 2012, the two concertos display no end of lyrical and playful interchange between individual woodwinds, strings, and Bezuidenhout’s persistently active filigree. The layout for the actual recording – involving the fortepiano being surrounded by winds and strings – approaches the idea that the musical alignments correspond to the voice parts in Mozart’s operas, especially The Magic Flute (K. 453) and Cosi fan tutte (K. 482).

Lightness tinted by melancholy drama marks the G Major Concerto (1784) in this “period” guise.  The lack of string vibrato, coupled with the dry decay of the fortepiano’s individual notes, produces a clear but not sterile sound, the accents often piercing and witty. The stop-and-start pattern of the florid Andante now openly acknowledges its debts to C.P. E. Bach.  The quality of a wind serenade coupled with a keyboard fantasia has rarely proven so vivid. The extended cadenza by Bezuidenhout warrants the price of admission. The imaginatively impish final Allegro, with its theme and variations, utilizes a contradanse impulse to serve as the vehicle for Mozart’s transformations. Flutist Daniela Lieb makes her sparkling presence known, as do the robust low notes from doublebasses Dane Roberts and Christian Berghoff-Fluel. The inevitable patter between the instrumental equivalents of Pagageno and Papagena retains its quicksilver charm.  And Bezuidenhout’s rapid running (or “hunting”) passages certainly impress for their sheer bravura as much as anyone who has ever realized this musical dynamo on the modern Steinway.

A lovely interlude between concertos occurs in the form of Mozart’s 1782 Rondo in A Major, whose beauties I first heard with Clara Haskil.  Its beguiling roulades, cast in a somewhat bucolic sensibility, pair the fortepiano with some lovely tropes from French horn (Gavin Edwards and Gijs Lacuelle) and lilting strings.  Conductor Muellejans, taking her cue from John Eliot Gardiner, assigns the forte and piano markings in the orchestra to tutti and soli, respectively. The stringent violin tone works quite well as a foil to the consistently lyrical outpouring of the melodic line. The lovely cadenza prior to the coda spotlights the fortepiano’s persuasive tone-color most effectively.

The usually palatial scope of the Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major has been reduced via the one-to-a-part principle but not its musical vigor.  The larger tuttis do in fact resort to doubling of parts for a fuller sound. The bassoon entires (Javier Zafra and Josep Casadella) bite with gruff pleasure. The first movement, embellished cadenza  from Bezuidenhout at first begins in the spirit of Bach Fifth Brandenburg. Some marvelous modulations mark this stirring realization of the cadenza and its explosive reunion with the sizzling orchestral tutti. The Andante’s glowing menace in Baroque style derives from another theme and variations that tolerates ad libitum passagework from keyboard solo and assorted wind players. The deeply somber hues these performers evoke often adumbrate the sensibilities of both Beethoven and Chopin. The optimistic C Major variation for flute and bassoon and strings makes a striking moment. Bezuidenhout in his accompanying booklet notes the emotional kinship with the Gran Partita in B-flat Major, K. 361. Nice work from trumpets and tympani for the Allegretto finale, as rife with ceremonial pomp as it plastic in its intimate colors. The intricate meanderings of the movement, its many shades and byways, imbue the various episodes with a mystery all their own, made rich by the tone color and sonic collaboration that approximates what the composer experienced himself.

—Gary Lemco

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