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Kristian Bezuidenhout in Mozart

Symphony No 1 in E flat, K16
Fantasie for solo fortepiano in C minor, K475
Serenade in G ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’ K525

Piano Concerto No 11 in F, K413; Piano Concerto No 12 in A, K414
Andante from Mozart’s Sonata in C major

The English Concert/Nadja Zwiener – director/leader
/Kristian Bezuidenhout - director/fortepiano

Wigmore Hall 23rd February 2011


A very important concert, Kristian Bezuidenhout's debut with The English Concert, was an altogether betterconcert than that which launched Kings Place Mozart Unwrapped, reviewed below. In the very early symphony and for Eine kleine Nachtmusik Nadja Zwiener was in charge and both items were well chosen for context, within which it was fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout (director for the concertos) whom we'd all come to hear.


Bezuidenhout had his piano positioned unusually, with no lid and the tail pointed towards the audience, and he sat within the players, likewise. He was endeavouring to create a chamber music/collaborative feel for the concertos, as against the nineteenth century's dramatic opposition between soloist and symphony orchestra.


His on stage explanation can be heard on the R3 broadcast of the concert 24 March at 7.00 pm, one which should not be missed.

He reminded us that in Mozart's time there were also chamber music versions current, with one-to-a-part. The arrangement worked well, with the curved ceiling over the platform reflecting the sound of the piano well into the hall, achieving excellent balance.


The concert is reviewed below by a new, self-deprecating contributor, who had divded her day between Ferneyhough & Mozart and brings together thoughts of those disparate experiences





Then and Now and Then

I am not a musician. I am a listener; I spent the day at the University of London Brian Ferneyhough Symposium for ‘one of today’s foremost living composers’, and the evening at Wigmore Hall for Mozart.


Speakers at the Ferneyhough Symposium titled their presentations with phrases such as: The Achievemnet of the Unachievable or The Absurd Hero. Ferneyhough called his own talk ‘Confusion as Method’.


Harry Halbreich described Ferneyhough’s music as being ‘ like walking on a razor edge with an abyss either side.’ And I knew what he meant.


Challenging, dense and many, many layered - Brian Ferneyhough demands a form of concentration and attention that is both exciting and exhausting.  For me, the pleasure may only come later…


At Senate House all this was absorbed politely by a large, attentive and mainly younger audience. In the crowded Wigmore Hall foyer I noticed that hair had turned greyer - and that people there were rude, jumped the queues and pushed others out of the way !

Once all that was over and Kristian Bezuidenhout came on to the centre of the stage and took his place at the fortepiano, the air was filled with transformation, melodic and pure. The little Symphony No 1 in E flat was a delight truly sublime. After the struggles of understanding during the day I briefly wondered if this was a cosy shell of good mannered music. Well no. It’s familiarity helped. In fact I was reminded of my father who loved Mozart and especially Eine kleine Nachtmusik (1787) and I could see him in memory transported by it and I remembered thinking how strange grown up people were.


Kristian, sitting surrounded by the orchestra transmitted a feeling of intimacy and almost tenderness, assisted by the softness of the fortepiano. It was strange to think this was his debut with The English Concert, so close they all felt. He closed his eyes, moved his head in little jerks (up, down, right, left) to direct the players unobtrusively. Striking pictures emerged. Mozart must have experienced existential despair at times and Bezuidenhout certainly transferred a huge number of human feelings; during the concert we experienced the slow, sombre Fantasie, and at the other extreme ‘gaily tripping’ music. This music was no easy option but I was aware of special pleasure in the sonata movement encore, heard in rapt silence; sublime !


Art has been described as ‘by its nature affirmative and promoting reconciliation with the world’, a phrase quoted by Andrew Whittal at Senate House. This felt an apt description of this conceryt as I sat on the tube afterwards.


Thank you Brian Ferneyhough and thank you Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, both powerful and legitimate voices in the world we inhabit. Harry Halbreich said ‘cultural amnesia does not exist’ and stated that Ferneyhough’s music is rooted in the past. Mozart feels so rooted in the present and future. Who came first?


Angela Hall

Mozart Unwrapped 31 December 2010 - 19 December 2011

Concert No 1

Overture - The Marriage of Figaro
Motet Exultate, Jubilate
Piano Concerto No.21 in C (Elvira Madigan*)
Symphony No.39 in E flat

Kristian Bezuidenhout [Walter/McNulty fortepiano R]
Sophie Bevan soprano
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Jonathan Cohen

Kings Place Hall One, London
31 December 2010
6 pm

This major year-long series of over forty Mozart events got off to a good start with two sold-out performances on New Year's Eve & New Year's Day.

Following hard upon the "Twelve days of Christmas", Radio 3's wall-to-wall twelve days of ‘The Genius of Mozart, Kings Place's New Year Day concert was also broadcast live by the BBC and has been made available on BBC iPlayer for a week.

Many people at Kings Place commented what a good time 6 p.m. is for a concert, late night travel home being often fraught these days (q.v. the annual New Year ParkLaneGroupYoungMusicians Series next week, starting 6.15 p.m. every day !).

For Musical Pointers, 2010 has been a year of the fortepiano!

We went specifically to hear Kristian Bezuidenhout in concerto; his name, hard-to-spell and pronounce, may not be well known yet in UK, and amongst general concert-goers there is still some residual suspicion of early keyboard instruments, so Bo Widerberg's 1967 film was called upon in aid...

Bezuidenhout's contribution was alert, fluent and very satisfying, the McNulty Walter & Sohn instrument delightful on its own and in accompanied passages. (Immediately before the performance, in a brief on-stage interview, he explained how joining in the tuttis in continuo style, as Mozart himself would have done, reduces the orchestra v. soloist opposition in standard concertos, and makes for a more collaborative atmosphere.)

That is illustrated by the intimacy caught in my illustration L of Kristian Bezuidenhout playing a similar instrument amongst the orchestra in other Mozart concertos, an image from some lovely YouTube postings.

Critical reservations about the whole concert are unavoidable, festive occasion though it was... We found the full OAE overwhelming in the unforgiving acoustic of Kings Place Hall One**, and the programme had too many items requiring horns & trumpets - and with timpani which were never struck other than hard! The vibrato-less strings played with Tourte-style bows sounded unsympathetic, and fast tempi denied expressivity. It was quite hard sometimes to hear flute and clarinets, buried invisibly behind the strings at the back of the platform; playing positions need to be adjusted there.

Sophie Bevan was neat but unremarkable in the Exultate, Jubilate motet with its famous Alleluia! finale. A pity that the programme (which was short) was not adjusted to have her sing, say, the Ch'io mi scordi di te? aria with piano obbligato, by way of an encore for Bezuidenhout and a reward to Kings Place for having brought the McNulty instrument in for this concert; modern pianos will be used thereafter in the series...

Two last thoughts; for full orchestral concerts Kings Place might experiment with a curtain round the back of the platform (there seems to be a suitable rail?) to mollify the sound? And future orchestral conductors there (Colin Davis is next in line - he's quoted in the festival brochure as saying "all the conductor needs to do is to stand back and try not to get in the way" !) could do well at Kings Place rehearsal to emulate members of the Takacs quartet who took turns to listen to their three colleagues from the body of Wigmore Hall during a rehearsal I was privileged to attend.

No problems at Kings Place though for the capacity audience, which was clearly delighted with the concert and departed invigorated to continue enjoying New Year festivities.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* - - the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan - - led to an anachronistic nickname of Elvira Madigan for the concerto

** - - Kings Place's Hall One as a chamber space - - acoustically, it is very fine, and atmospherically inviting, with a greater intimacy than Wigmore Hall. Sunday Times Culture