South African-British historical keyboardist Kristian Bezuidenhout has emerged from accompanimental roles into solo concertizing and major-label recording, making quite a splash. The immediate attraction is his tone. Through frequent and varied use of the una corda pedal (the "soft pedal" of the modern piano), he coaxes a large range of dynamics and timbres out of his instrument, a modern copy of a 1795 Viennese Walter fortepiano. It may be easier with Bezuidenhout than with any of his peers to forget that you're listening to a historical instrument. And in this very nicely recorded selection of Mozart sonatas and other pieces, he often matches the instrument to the music in an admirably thorough way. The high point is the big Piano Sonata in F major, K. 533, an incomplete work joined as is usually done with the Rondo in F major, K. 494, to make a three-movement sonata. Bezuidenhout effectively draws out the contrasts in the first movement of this complex work, modulating the tone of his piano as the first movement moves from intellectual arcana (the Alberti bass of the opening suddenly being deployed as the top line of invertible counterpoint) to muscular crowd-pleasing arpeggios. The sparser late Piano Sonata in B flat major, K. 570, also receives a convincing, rather brooding performance. Elsewhere, Bezuidenhout is more idiosyncratic. He splits off the Fantasia in C minor, K. 475, from the Piano Sonata in C minor, K. 457, to which it is usually attached, and both there and in the innocent Variations on "Unser dummer Pöbel meint," K. 455, the interpretations seem a bit overwrought. Still, there's a good deal of pleasure in the sheer lushness of this album, which marks another step in bringing the fortepiano into the musical mainstream.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata in F major, K. 533/494|
|Sonata in B flat major, K. 570|