The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Petra Müllejans (violin) Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano)
Composer: Mozart

According to the CD packaging, Petra Müllejans and Kristian Bezuidenhout play these pieces in a way that ‘recaptures the freshness and volatility’ of their early performances. Those first airings, with Mozart sometimes playing a keyboard part he hadn’t yet written down, may well have been fresh and volatile, but trying to recapture them sounds like a licence for idiosyncratic playing. And so it is. There is a constant rhythmic freedom in these performances, as the players home on details, linger on a passing melodic shape or enjoy a witty turn of phrase, which does have something of the wonder of discovery about it.

They take a few liberties with the notes as well, particularly Bezuidenhout, who obviously takes his role as Mozart’s stand-in seriously. Ornamentation is frequent, but judiciously used: Müllejans adds some nice little tweaks in the first-half repeat of the opening Adagio to K319, a beautiful piece of cantilena playing. Both players have their own little cadenzas to bridge the gaps, as in Müllejans’s filler between the opening Largo and the Allegro of K454.

Some of the colourations and mannerisms may be a little too vivid, especially for repeated listening, but this is intelligent and vibrant music-making, with an endearingly earthy quality to it all, perhaps emphasised by the close-in recording of the period instruments (the fortepiano is well-tempered, and the pitch is A=130). These players are not worshipping at the shrine of Mozart: the composer feels very much alive, which is presumably what they had in mind.