Fantasia in C Minor, K.475
This is not your father's Mozart, not even your great grandfather's Mozart, but it might just be as close as we get to Mozart's Mozart. Bezuidenhout is playing a modern replica by Derek Adlam of a Gabriel Anton Walter fortepiano that Mozart himself owned in Vienna. Mozart's fortepiano spans a five-octave range and is capable of a powerful and extremely wide range of tone color that can be shocking to modern ears. Pitch stability is not on a par with the modern piano, and sustain is much shorter, but Mozart was writing for this instrument and took its limited octave range and short sustain into account as he was writing.
Kristian Bezuidenhaut is a South African native now in his forties, trained in Australia and the Eastman School of Music in the U.S. He makes his home now, as so many eminent musicians do, in London. Starting as a modern pianist, he has more recently studied harpsichord, fortepiano and continuo, often accompanying baroque opera performances. Besides his solo performances he now appears with various period-instrument orchestras and chamber ensembles, and as a vocal accompanist.
I'm of two minds about this recording. In the Fantasia K.475 and Sonata K.533/494, his performance doesn't plumb the depths of this profound music in the way that Walter Klein does in his classic set. I find myself interested and entertained, but not entirely convinced or captivated by Bezuidenhaut's sometimes laborious approach. But K.570 shows more sparkle and wit, and I found myself forgetting other pianists and reveling in the glorious Technicolor of the fortepiano.
The K.455 Variations are entirely successful and take spectacular advantage of the wide range of color available to illustrate the different moods of each variation. The disc is worth buying just to hear this tour de force of period instrument authenticity.
Harmonia Mundi has given us a splendid tri-fold package with cover notes by John Irving. More importantly, they have captured the brittle tone most realistically, preserving dynamics and low-level detail along the way. A very welcome disc.