Arts & Events

Kristian Bezuidenhout Plays Fortepiano

James Roy MacBean
Friday June 10, 2016 - 12:16:00 PM

Early keyboard specialist Kristian Bezuidenhout returned to Berkeley for a fortepiano recital on June 9 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church as part of the biannual Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, a showcase for early music. Bezuidenhout’s most recent appearance in Berkeley was in February performing Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto on fortepiano with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Then as in the present recital, Bezuidenhout’s playing displayed fantastic technique and a flair for subtle, refined interpretation. In his program for this recital, Bezuidenhout again featured the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He began the recital with an early Mozart work, the Klavierstück in F Major, K. 33b. This was a bouncy, bumptious piece, brief in length but full of youthful high spirits. Next came Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K. 309, a work the composer wrote out and completed while in Mannheim on the ill-fated trip to Paris with his mother. In three movements, this C Major Sonata has a middle movement that is reputed to be a pensive musical portrait of Mademoiselle Cannabich, the daughter of Mozart’s new friend, Mannheim’s Kappelmeister Cannabich. The two outer movements are marked by bright, long runs, here performed with great finesse by Kristian Bezuidenhout. 

Next on the program was the Sonata in G Major, Wq. 55/6, by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach. This work in three movements – fast, slow, fast – was given exquisite treatment by Bezuidenhout, who clearly performed it as a labor of love. Following this work came the Sonata in G minor, Hob. XVI: 44, by Franz Joseph Haydn. Amid the usual high spirits of Haydn’s music there were quite a few pregnant pauses that built up a certain suspense as the audience waited to hear what would come next. Following this Haydn sonata came another piece by C.P.E. Bach, a Rondo in E flat Major, Wq. 61/1, excerpted from Clavier Sonaten für kenner und Liebhaber. This brief morsel was liltingly lyrical, almost dreamy in mood.  

The final work in this program was also the most well-known – Mozart’s Sonata in C minor, K. 457. This work has been called “Beethovenisme d’avant la letter,” and it surely impressed Beethoven with its dark, agitated outer movements and its explosive compression. The work opens with a bang, a fortissimo note followed by an ascending phrase, and this theme is given many repetitions and variations throughout the first movement, organizing its entire dramatic structure. By contrast the middle movement, an Adagio, offers limpid melody, clarity and simplicity. The Finale returns to the dark, dramatic mood of the opening movement, venturing even further into pathos than the first movement. Bezuidenhout’s playing demonstrated that the delicate sound capabilities of the fortepiano, as compared with the modern piano, are fully adequate to capture even the stark, dramatic music of this adventuresome Mozart Sonata in C minor.