Kristian Bezuidenhout

Joseph Haydn: Piano Sonatas Hob. XVI:6, 20 & 48

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The Mozart sonata recordings of South African-born fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout gained rightful acclaim, but anyone expecting this album of Haydn keyboard works, played on a replica of a 1790s Walter instrument, to be more of the same is in for a big shock. Bezuidenhout thinks of the relation between piano sonatas and more general oeuvres differently for Haydn than he does for Mozart, and with Haydn he emphasizes the composer's progressive side. This progressive side emerged full-blown at the end of Haydn's career in a series of piano works that mightily influenced Beethoven (and that Beethoven certainly had the chance to hear as Haydn's student), but it was arguably always there in Haydn's music. Bezuidenhout talks about the difficulty of playing Haydn, which may come as a surprise to listeners who think of his piano music as relatively simple technically. But his comment gives you an idea about Bezuidenhout's playing: it is free in tempo, dramatic, and, in Bezuidenhout's hands, downright virtuosic because there's so much going on. Often the effect is thrilling: sample the final Variations in F minor, Hob. 17/6, where Bezuidenhout finds all kinds of hidden tension in the music. In the Partita (Divertimento) in G major, Hob. 16/6, really a sonata despite its name, the energy Bezuidenhout applies may seem a bit much: this work was written around 1760, and this is by no means a historically accurate performance. Still and all, it's never dull. Recommended.

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