The influence of the early music movement on the performance of Mozart's keyboard music has reached a point where the listener can choose from among several strong fortepiano versions of most works. There are the compellingly dramatic, somewhat abrupt readings by Andreas Staier, the expressively melodic recordings of Ronald Brautigam, the clean, classical treatments of Malcolm Bilson, and now a cycle by South African-British fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout on the Harmonia Mundi label, which in classical terms is a major label. Bezuidenhout's instrument, a copy of a 1795 Walter fortepiano by American-Czech builder Paul McNulty (tuned in unequal temperament), is a star of the show here; for sheer fluidity and power it's probably unequaled on the historical-performance scene. The program displays it effectively here, making this a good introduction for those who want to sample Bezuidenhout's style. The Piano Sonata in B flat major, K. 333, is one of those Mozart sonatas that's virtually a concerto in miniature, with powerful bass lines and a little cadenza written into the end of the finale. It's the perfect showpiece for the McNulty/Walter instrument, and a very satisfying performance. After that you get the inexplicably rarely played Variations in F major on "Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding," K. 613, a late work that seems to twit the operatic melody in which it's based by retaining the simple tune at the beginning of each variation but then plunging unexpectedly into complex textures or harmonic twists. Bezuidenhout does not quite put the humor across here, but he's back on comfortable ground with the incomplete Fantasia in C minor, K. 396, and Piano Sonata in F major, K. 332. Very well recorded, as usual with Harmonia Mundi, this is as good a place as any to start with Bezuidenhout's series.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata in B-flat major, K. 333|
|Variations on "Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding" in F major, K. 613|
|Sonata in F major, K. 332|