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For this recording Bezuidenhout and his colleagues have drawn on the latest textual scholarship, in the hope of resolving numerous issues regarding Beethoven’s intentions: how to treat the slur (which in his time was regarded as a diminuendo), how best, and on what note, to trill, and how to honour the music’s improvisatory origins.

They considered using two different instruments but decided that would become a distraction so fixed on a bright-toned Graf copy. This was a wise decision: the first problem for every fortepiano performance is to assert its very different sound quality for ears accustomed to the sound of the Steinway. And from his incisive entry in the Emperor Concerto onwards, Bezuidenhout makes his point: this doesn’t feel like a period-instrument diminution of what the composer wanted. He extracts many refinements of colour and creates lovely effects.

He also dispenses with what he regards as Beethoven’s ‘grotesque’ cadenza for the Second Concerto, instead playing a ‘cut and paste’ cadenza of his own; this won’t please everybody, but it’s an interesting if futuristic solution. Thanks to his artistry – and to excellent support from the Freiburger Barockorchester and Pablo Heras-Casado – there are moments which will convince even those listeners most wedded to modern instruments. His passagework has a sustained strength which allows him to command the orchestra, and when it’s liberation time in the final movements he generates elfin mischief.

MICHAEL CHURCH Read the full review on Agora Classica


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