Prelude and Fugue in C, K394
Piano Sonata in B flat, K333
Variations on Gluck’s ‘Unser dummer Pöbel meint’, K455
Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 17 December, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Perhaps the only lasting regret concerning this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Mozart Concert is that the program contained no information on the fortepiano played with such grace and virtuosity by Kristian Bezuidenhout. He began with a relative rarity, the Prelude and Fugue dating from 1782, a time when Mozart was keenly studying the music of Bach and Handel. The music is therefore something of homage, and Bezuidenhout interpreted it in that way, with clarity of musical thought and clear voicing that revealed the intricacies of the counterpoint. He was also sensitive in his use of the damper pedal, introducing an attractive mottled timbre for the quieter dynamics.
The substantial B flat Piano Sonata followed, its Köchel numbering misleading since it was completed in 1784. Here there was a tremendous sense of space in Bezuidenhout’s playing, and the slow movement in particular contained music of great beauty: it was easy to imagine a flute or violin with orchestral accompaniment, the cantabile phrases floating above sensitive punctuation. The outer movements showed off Bezuidenhout’s dexterity, with the figurations of the finale brilliantly despatched, the opening idea differently projected on each of its reappearances to create music of great charm with a nice touch of humour, too.
Mozart also looked back in his Variations on ‘Unser dummer Pöbel meint’, from Gluck’s opera La rencontre imprévue. The theme is bare bones material, and through a series of outrageous harmonic send-ups and virtuosic plays, Bezuidenhout delivered a sparkling performance of technical brilliance and wit. The minor-key commentary was exaggerated in its po-faced appearance, while the number of ‘wrong notes’ introduced by Mozart to spice up the harmonies were heavily accented. There was plenty of rubato, and sensitive pedalling, so that the crisp staccato of the theme was maintained but the flourishes of the fourth Variation were also abundantly clear.
After this tour de force Bezuidenhout found repose in the encore, a thoughtful account of the slow movement of the Piano Sonata in C (K330) in which the central episode was intimate in the extreme.