MOZART: Fantasia in c, K. 475; Sonata in F, K. 533; Sonata in B-flat, K. 570; Variations on “Unser dummer Pobel meint” in G, K. 455 – Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano – Harmonia mundi

by | Apr 20, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Fantasia in c, K. 475; Sonata in F, K. 533; Sonata in B-flat, K. 570; Variations on “Unser dummer Pobel meint” in G, K. 455 – Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano – Harmonia mundi 907497, 72:15 ****:

This is being trumpeted as “Keyboard Music, Vol. 1”, so we will see if HM takes it all the way and gives us a complete set. I liked this more than I was planning on. Usually Mozartian fortepianos grate me in a way that few others do. This one is modeled on a 1795 Anton Walter (Vienna) by Derek Adam (1987) and has a much more robust sound than some others. The notes rightly point out that the composer played on a lot of different instruments in his lifetime, and as the nascent piano was a work in progress for many years, probably took pains to compose music that fit the particular characteristics of any one fortepiano he was playing on or had at his disposal. Approached in this manner the whole question of authenticity takes on deeper musicological connotations, and can result in some significant performance resolutions and changes, though I’ll wager that music like this, so well-known and loved, is largely immune to any such considerations aside from the merely cerebral.

Is it important to know that the decay times of certain registers of the instrument were taken into consideration when Mozart was choosing how long to write a particular held note? Maybe, but contemporaneous tradition has long ago solved most of those issues, and playing the music with a new instrument that might happen to reflect what Mozart had in mind is not going to prove so revelatory that we give up all other recordings for the new one. I found myself concentrating more on the variance of tonal characteristics on this fortepiano from the highest to lowest notes. The low ones have that peculiar “harpsichord” buzz to them, rich in overtones and more powerful than other instruments I have heard from this time period. The upper notes likewise lack the clangorous tinny sound that so many have—it is no wonder Mozart played on so many instruments, searching for one with the most pleasing tonal sound. And I will say that this instrument is capable of a much finer piano dynamic than most modern grand’s.

Interpretatively, Bezuidenhout caught my attention from the start, and turns in polished and finely-wrought readings of these works that are attractive and basically solid in approach with a little more spunk that similar discs. I will never warm up to a fortepiano enough so that I can recommend any of those readings over those on a modern instrument played by exceptional performers. But with HM’s fine sound and Bezuidenhout’s sterling readings this can easily be put forth as a top notch example of period Mozart piano performance.

— Steven Ritter 

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