Bezuidenhout & Haydn

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Having completed a cycle of Mozart’s solo keyboard works for Harmonia Mundi, Kristian Bezuidenhout now turns his attention to Haydn. He plays on a Paul McNulty reproduction of an Anton Walter instrument, whose timbral differentiation between registers suits the linear transparency of Haydn’s style.

Some listeners may find Bezuidenhout’s sundry tenutos and hesitations in the C minor sonata’s opening Allegro moderato mannered, yet such expressive devices intensify the music’s dark underside. In contrast to Ronald Brautigam’s forceful and dynamic finale, Bezuidenhout opts for relative restraint, yet keeps the tension alive through astute voice leading and accentuation.

Bezuidenhout’s subtle colorations and balancing of voices in the keyboard arrangement of the Op. 76 No. 3 string quartet’s variations on Haydn’s famous “Kaiserhymne” are such that you hardly miss the original scoring. His controlled virtuosity proves especially effective in the Divertimento Allegro molto finale’s crisply turned triplets.

The wonderful two-movement C major sonata, however, fares less well interpretively: Because of its many rests between phrases, the first movement can sound sectionalized and fragmented in the wrong hands, and it does so here on account of Bezuidenhout’s slightly mechanical runs and tapered phrase endings. Similar dynamic hairpins draw more attention to Bezuidenhout than to Haydn in the scampering finale. But the F minor Variations benefit from Bezuidenhout’s animated pacing, his assiduous tempo relationships, and his jewel-like shaping of embellishments. It’s not clear if this release signifies a new Haydn cycle in the works, yet Bezuidenhout’s best playing bodes well for such a project. Excellent sound and annotations.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Brautigam (BIS)

    Piano Sonata in C minor Hob. XVI:20; Variations on the theme “Gott erhalte, Franz, den Kaiser” Hob. I, 430; Partita (Divertimento) in G major Hob. XVI:6; Piano Sonata in C major Hob. XVI: 48; Variations in F minor Hob. XVII:6
  • Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano)

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