Adventures with Mozart
Kristian Bezuidenhout devoted the third of his four Boston Early Music Festival appearances to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was a snapshot glimpse of the composer: three works written in 1785 and 1786, Mozart at the height of his Viennese celebrity and, perhaps, his confidence.
The C minor Fantasie, K. 475 is a solo piano rumination that seems, in retrospect, to foreshadow more extreme 19th-century rhetoric. Playing a Viennese-style fortepiano — lighter and slightly more jangly than its modern counterpart — Bezuidenhout still opted for adventurous rubato: The tempo was stretched almost to breaking, slow-to-fast contrasts amplified, sighing figures drawn out. Bezuidenhout so diligently availed himself of opportunities for dramatically extended pauses that it turned into a mannerism before long; but his touch was unfailingly refined, even, and judicious.
For the G minor Piano Quartet, K. 478, Bezuidenhout was joined by members of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra — violinist Petra Müllejans, violist Gottfried von der Goltz, and cellist Kristen von der Goltz. Period instruments and practice changed not only the sound, in the familiar early-music way — more transparent, more taut — but the ensemble’s constitution. Echoes of the Baroque tradition of a continuo group were prominent, string entrances highlighting the piano’s ideas by subtly or suddenly deepening the foundation. In turn, the piano could take string ideas and give them decorative etching — a back-and-forth particularly prominent in the Rondo finale of K. 478. And with the strings using vibrato as a sparing garnish, one could hear how the piano’s ornamentation was not only a virtuosic touch, but an analogical translation of the strings’ effect.
The G minor Quartet was part of a multi-work commission, but proved so challenging that the publisher backed out. Mozart nevertheless wrote another Quartet, the E-flat major, K. 493. If the G minor is nearly operatic in its drama — from its portentous opening to its final pages’ twist-ending deceptive cadence — the E-flat sparkles, as if Mozart was unwilling to abandon the genre until he had exhausted its conversational possibilities.
The group’s encore returned to slow-movement soul with the Andante cantabile from Beethoven’s op. 16 Quintet for piano and winds, arranged by the composer for piano quartet, a muted rush of shadows. In the concert’s context, it sounded like a portrait of Mozart, against a backdrop of darkening skies.
Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at email@example.com.