Kristian Bezuidenhout MOZART Keyboard Music Vols. 8 & 9

Kristian Bezuidenhout's cycle of Mozart's complete keyboard music concludes with this double album, which contains some real rarities that are ideally suited to Bezuidenhout's tough, wiry style. As such, it may not be the item to pick if you want to sample the series, but it's often fascinating. Bezuidenhout's basic modus operandi is to give considerable weight even to works conventionally thought of as light, using his powerful fortepiano (a copy of an 1805 Walter instrument by builder Paul McNulty) and its unequal-temperament tuning to bring out dissonances and sinewy lines rarely heard elsewhere. Here he has some really radical experiments to work with, and even if you find Bezuidenhout's readings idiosyncratic at times, you'll likely appreciate the likes of the Modulating Prelude F-C, K. deest (it is indubitably by Mozart), or the Menuetto in D major, K. 355, with its daring harmonies barely matched elsewhere in Mozart's output. Several of the sonata-form movements were abandoned by Mozart for one reason or another and have been completed by Mozart scholar Robert Levin; the joints are hard to hear. Some pieces, such as the Modulating Prelude and the Four Preludes, K. 284a, are examples of Mozart's improvisational abilities, which were rarely captured in notation. In the larger and more usual works, Bezuidenhout applies a heavy touch to the Piano Sonatas K. 279 and 280, and to three large variations sets, which are generally given a touch of French elegance. But in the Nine Variations on a Minuet by Duport, K. 573, Bezuidenhout achieves utterly distinctive results in a work that has almost no harmonic content and is completely about register and space. Bezuidenhout's Mozart is, to be sure, a matter of taste, but this is a fine conclusion to his series. (James Manheim)

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