MENDELSSOHN Piano Concerto No 2 (Bezuidenhout)
Among a flurry of Mendelssohn piano concerto recordings in recent months, the direct competitor to this new one will be Ronald Brautigam’s with the Cologne Academy under Michael Alexander Willens. He used a copy (by Paul McNulty – who else?) of an 1830 Pleyel, while Kristian Bezuidenhout’s instrument is an echt Érard from seven years later. In terms of piano sound, Bezuidenhout’s perhaps sounds closer to what one might expect of a modern piano. It’s capable of a wide range of colours and dynamics, holding its own against the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra but producing a beautifully veiled tone in the central Adagio.
In terms of the playing, however, contrasts in approach are more marked. Bezuidenhout is the more inward of the two, a quality noted in his recent disc of Haydn piano sonatas (3/19); as happy to allow his passagework to rumble away within the body of the orchestra as he is to muse on more lyrical sections. The recording is slightly more spacious, regarding the ensemble in a sonic panorama, than the more spotlit BIS recording. That suits the unshowy approach of these players, especially when you realise how much of the concerto is marked piano and pianissimo.
The Freiburgers are on fine form, too, under Pablo Heras-Casado. This disc completes their cycle of the symphonies with the First, played with the Sturm und Drang turned up to 11, highlighting its lineage back through Beethoven’s C minor moods to late Mozart, especially the tortuous chromaticisms and counterpoint of the G minor Symphony, K550. The string sound, bleached of vibrato, contrasts vibrantly with the warmth of the winds, most notably the clarinet of Lorenzo Coppola, who once again comes into his own in the fairy-tale overture The Fair Melusine – a delicious dessert after the two minor-key heavyweights that precede it.