Artist Encounter: Kristian Bezuidenhout, Fortepiano

Artist Encounter: Kristian Bezuidenhout, Fortepiano

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, DC.>>David Plylar: Hello,
my name is David Plylar and I’m a music specialist
at the Library of Congress. And it is my great pleasure to be
here with Kristian Bezuidenhout, who gave us an amazing
fortepiano recital last night where he played works
by Beethoven and Haydn. And today we managed to
corner him and keep him here for a little bit longer so that we
can show him a few of our treasures from our holdings at
the Library of Congress. We have a bit of a kind of
Viennese and Austrian special set of selections that we’re
going to take a look at. So thank you for being with me.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Great pleasure. Thank you, David.>>David Plylar: I thought
we would start with a piece that you have recorded
with Petra Mullejans.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Yeah, that’s right, yes.>>David Plylar: Who is a cofounder
of the Freiburger Barockorchester. And it was a lovely recording. And this is Mozart’s violin
sonata in G major K379. And we happen to have it here,
so I thought that would be.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Extraordinary.>>David Plylar: Yeah.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Wow. You know, I have to
be really honest. I’m not one of these people
whose involved in this repertory who has spent a lot of time
actually looking at the manuscripts. So it’s I think when you unveil the
first page of something like this that you’ve actually seen in
digital PDF versions many times, it’s actually quite overwhelming. 379 is really — how can I put this? Even straight off the bat, you see
that this is a sonata for violin and piano, which is extensively
this kind of very polite, delightful entertainment
for amateurs to be playing. It should be quite
easy to deal with, technically not too challenging. It shouldn’t be anything too crazy. And yet Mozart sets up this part
on here where he starts a sonata for violin and piano with an unbelievably richly
scored elaborate adagio movement. Which then immediately leads into this wild G minor
allegro in the beginning. So extraordinary. You see also that there’s
this sense I always think with these manuscripts
with Mozart’s penmanship, that there’s a level kind of
built in to the DNA detail that just is immediately there from
everything, from every pen stroke to every slur to the trace of every
slur to the end of every measure.>>David Plylar: Great clarity
on the staccato marking.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Absolutely. That’s really true, in
fact, the articulation even in this stage really is just,
it’s like it actually is part of the basic character
of the notes themselves, how they should be played, and
not just getting the pitches down. You see that with the level of
specificity with the slurring and staccatos, exactly as you say.>>David Plylar: This is
the first time that both of us are taking a look at this, so
we’re exploring it together here.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: What’s
very interesting about this piece, just from a historical standpoint,
Mozart is in Vienna in 1781 and he is obliged to
play a private concert for his patron, the Archbishop. And I think it’s really important
to realize that this is a point at which Mozart is
really fighting the fact that he desperately
wants to be soft-spoken. And so I think this is
probably the one moment when all of this gets put into sharp relief. Because Mozart is forced to
play this private concert for the Archbishop, and it’s
exactly this piece that he plays. And we have a letter that
he describes this situation in which he plays this piece
with Brunetti, who was the leader of the court orchestra in Salzburg,
and Mozart wasn’t a big fan of Brunetti and kind of complained
about his playing, in fact. But then pulls out
a sonata like this. And 379 is I think really one of the
pieces that puts Mozart on the map of kind of reshaping what the violin
sonata is capable of as a genre in the sense that it would then
be taken up later by Beethoven. I mean, this is a piece that starts
with an adagio and then moves on to this allegro and
is a theme in variations. [inaudible] totally, right. It’s kind of fantasy-like in a
sense because it moves a coda from movement to movement, and
also ends with a set of variations, which we’ll also see later.>>David Plylar: Was he already — he’s newly in Vienna or just
right on the cusp of that?>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: I
think break hadn’t yet happened, I think it happened
in May, maybe 81. This was right before that, if I’m
not mistaken, I could be dead wrong. But it was all about
to go horribly wrong. And I think this, this piece
really is emblematic of that. Because I think there’s this
comment that Mozart makes where he feels really put down
by the fact that he has to sit with the servants at this function,
or perhaps it’s another function. But all of this stuff is
happening at the same time. And you see him also in a piece like
this, like let’s say particularly with G minor, that there’s all
this — how can I put this? Nostalgia for Amadeus. And how much of a breakthrough
that was for him musically and artistically. I think it comes through
very strongly in this piece, alternation between
G major and G minor, these kind of dramatic pauses,
Amadeus style writing and kind of wild virtuosity as well.>>David Plylar: You know,
speaking of that, part of what comes out of this to me when
I’m looking at it is that, we always have this image of Mozart
and Mendelson as being perfect from the very moment that
they write something down . But there’s very clearly
some alternative thoughts and some vacillation perhaps in the
process, which is both humanizing but in the end still amazing work. But it also, you know, it
offers something of a — I always think with these
composers that we hold so highly that there’s a — whenever people
say you couldn’t change the notes, I always think, well, they probably
could’ve come up with something that was equally as good, just
a different variation of it.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: This
brings up such a good point, David. Because, especially with Mozart,
we’re really trapped by this, the tyranny of this idea that every
note is preordained by the heavens or the cosmos, and Mozart
just sort of writes it down. But you see this really
with everything, there are very specific examples
like the C minor piano marcato, which is one of the messiest, most fraught manuscripts
that you’ll look at. And like things that you see
here in 379 where Mozart crosses out certain things and revises them or changes the figuration a
little bit, like the actual notes that he wants played, you see that
constantly in a piece like 491. Where he is actually still very
much in this kind of process of figuring things out even in
this stage of the manuscript. That is unusual for Mozart. And you see, it sort of
changes character in a way. Like the first page is sort of
very Apollonian and kind of perfect and everything in its place. And then somehow I like to
think when we get to G minor and things get fraught and
a little bit more dramatic, it gets a bit messier and a little
more disorganized in a sense, or a tiny bit more
unsure of itself in a way.>>David Plylar: You know,
another thing I noticed, maybe in this region right here,
you know, one of the other things that composers who write by hand — there still are some who to
this day still write by hand. Which I appreciate,
especially at the Library, we appreciate when they
give us those scores. Is the order that you
write something and if it’s not a finished thing,
that does have an impact on then when you realize after you’ve
written four bars of something, that, you know, with long
notes and then you have to fill a bunch of short notes in.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Absolutely.>>David Plylar: It seems
like that’s a kind of problem that composers have never outgrown. And you can see that perhaps
Mozart was slightly afflicted with that here.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Definitely.>>David Plylar: In some of
the tightness of the writing.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
[inaudible] that he can really fit in those 30-second notes, isn’t it? Absolutely. You see this especially with
Mozart, he runs into this problem where he has memory issues. Because you’ll see that he’ll write
out certain things, let’s say, in a piano sonata, like he’ll
write up certain keyboard notes, and then he’ll go back and write
— he’ll go back and fill in, let’s say, the second violin
or something like that. Or they’ll be some voice that
has to be dealt with later, and he’ll forget what he’s written in another voice, and
they’ll be clashes. In the C minor piano
sonata, there are tons of places whether there are just
literally wrong notes together. Because the stage of composition
is so delineated by Mozart, was separated, that he writes
things at different times. And his memory doesn’t allow him
to keep up with what he’s written. And he’s not really
checking vertically. He’s still really just writing
in this direction, horizontally.>>David Plylar: That’s
very interesting.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: And, of
course, it’s not such a problem in a piece for three lines, like
one violin and two piano staves.>>David Plylar: But
problematic in an orchestra.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Hugely problematic, especially when you add
trumpets and timpani and yeah.>>David Plylar: And there
are different keys, right.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
It’s also very interesting to see how things look. You know, when you step back and
you see moments that are really — you know, where the ink really comes across as really sharply
black or very delineated. And then these other places that — it has such a beautiful
kind of pattern into it. It’s really.>>David Plylar: Yeah, and I’m
not an expert in this at all.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Nor am I.>>David Plylar: It does
have this look of — also you can kind of see the ebb
and flow of dipping or something like that, that’s my supposition for how it might attain
this type of a look.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: I think
it’s really it’s very touching to see this actually, because
you start to see that — I don’t know how I
can put this quite. But this sense that — around
this time, Mozart is beginning to understand the latent
artistic — how can I put this? Artistic potential for a genre
like this, like the violin sonata. Which is really locked
kind of trapped away in this bourgeois amateur mileur
[phonetic], where it’s just supposed to be delightful entertainment for
people playing at dinner parties. And I don’t know why
I’m so stuck by that. Maybe because it’s a triple
timepiece in G minor preluded by an adagio, that it really
seems like he’s saying, but possibly unconsciously while
this is going to be a genre that will become very attractive to
Beethoven as a real art form genre, much like the piano sonata
becomes for Beethoven. And yet, after this shocking
movement in G minor which ends forte with octaves and tremblers in the
right hand, then you turn the page and you have this incredibly kind
of innocent rococo genteel set of variations in andantino
and two four time. And you also see that Mozart
is still saying, oh, well, it’s still very charming actually. Now, don’t be too shocked
by what I’ve just done.>>David Plylar: That is
fascinating because the notion that it doesn’t quite
fit into its function, its assumed functional role, yet
so much energy, whether, you know, maybe for Mozart it wasn’t as much
energy as it is for other composers. But the amount of thought and
energy that goes into the production of any work, I think that
that’s always worth respecting and thinking about, like you are.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: For sure. Interesting that — you’re
absolutely right what you say about these space issues. This is surprisingly kind of
jammed together in places. I mean, like many of these
variations that’s for violin and piano, Mozart always has
a variation for solo piano. It just has such an —
It’s a very, I don’t know, always struck me as
very modern idea. It’s like, okay, thank
you for the theme, but now let me be the
first to do this. It’s quite combative. It’s a little bit like, okay,
now let’s see what you can do. But he does really jam
a lot into this first — I can tell you, this is
such an alarmingly — this is a very a tricksy
movement, let me put it that way. The theme is very charming
and not easy to play, but it seems like,
okay, this is lovely. And I can tell you,
the first variation from the keyboard is so awkward. Very awkwardly written. For Mozart, surprisingly
difficult to play, even though it sounds very easy. It’s a very curious piece, and
it just takes you by surprise. He sets up this structure in
the theme where the beginning of the theme is quite
lyrical and easy-going. But then he has these moments of
mini drama when he goes to A minor and then back to C major. And in all of the variations,
that moment becomes more and more dramatic, and I think more
and more technically challenging. So in the first variation, it’s
actually these octaves and the bass and the piano all the sudden, and
then hand-crossing without warning. And then the violin does
its first variation, which is also sounds
really chirpy and charming, but is very awkward actually. And then you can see that
Mozart has to fit in all of these tiny demisemiquavers
in the third variation.>>David Plylar: Here’s
an interesting moment, where there’s a lot of
crossed out [inaudible].>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Yeah. So I think — this is
really interesting. It doesn’t seem to be
space-saving so much as it looks like Mozart finishes
the G minor variation, which then in real time
leads right into the adagio. But what’s so telling is that
he writes the adagio variation without the violin line above it. So I think he’s really
treating this, again, like a keyboard variation
in a sense. I think clearly not
— the idea is not that he wrote the keyboard
variation and thought, this will be a variation for
keyboard alone and then decided to add the violin line later. But the fact that the violin
line is sort of relegated to this tiny space
on the other page.>>David Plylar: It’s
a coda, so yeah.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
That’s exactly right.>>David Plylar: It doesn’t have
as much of a motivating role as.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
That’s exactly. Yes, this is true. And it’s like what you see
in Mozart’s notational style or structural settings for
things like the piano sonatas, the way the staves are aligned,
the idea of the bass line on the left hand corresponding
with the cello and bass department, and then you’ve got
the violins at the top, and everything gets
filled-in in a sense. Mozart is very clear about the
most important structural elements of what he’s writing
being put in place first and then filling-in the blanks as
it were as a kind of shorthand. And that’s very.>>David Plylar: That’s
something that I think carried over to composers like
Schubert and Brahms. My understanding was that Schubert
would often write melodic line with a piano bass line.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Exactly. It’s so wonderful too
because the way the structure of this variation works, which is
true of many Mozart variations, the last literal variation
is this adagio variation. Which is really — again, this
is one of those moments in Mozart where you realize that things, like
the universe, sort of just opens up like this in one moment. It’s an extraordinary piece. You’ve got this pizzicato
line from the violin. This unbelievably fluid, incredibly
finely wrote adagio variation from the piano with
incredible scales going all up and down the keyboard. Once that variation is over,
Mozart literally writes, play the theme again
[foreign language]. Which is so charming in a sense. Because, well, okay, we’re done
with that now, play the theme again. And once you finish playing the
theme, oh, I’ve got this little coda that I’d like to add on to that. And here it is on the last two
lines, and then just play that and that’s the end of the piece. It’s sort of so, I don’t know,
it’s so riant, touching in a sense. It’s like this is so
gorgeous and romantic and completely from another planet. But then it’s back to business. Play the theme again, but don’t
forget to play this legato. And there’s a delightful little bit
of semiquaver stuff from the piano, and that’s the end of the piece and
it finishes piano with short notes. That was that.>>David Plylar: Yeah, he
just kind of grounds it.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
You see this in — I really like this idea that when
Mozart repeats a theme in this stage of the gestation process,
he’ll just say, look, just play the theme
again [foreign language]. You see this in the C minor
piano sonata four, five, seven, in the middle movement. The theme comes back again and
again in the course of the movement. And this is through composed
movement, it’s not like a series of discrete variations like this, where he has to really
make this clear. And he just says, play
the theme again. And, of course, when the piece
is prepared for publication, he realizes that he needs to
give his audience some idea of what they might do with those
varied returns of the theme. So then he writes up ornaments
for us, for the layperson. And it’s wonderful, very tantalizing
sense of, okay, play it again, but what might you do
differently the second time.>>David Plylar: So would Mozart
have that sort of an expectation on, say, a repeated thing like this?>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
I think so. Bear in mind, this is one of those
pieces we really know Mozart played. Mozart played a lot of
his music, but he also — we know that there’s music that
he didn’t get a chance to play, or was possibly played by other
people, or that he really wrote for other people in mind, like
Barbara Ployer, his student. This is a piece that we
know Mozart really played at a real event in 1781. In the same way that we
know Mozart played 454, the B flat sonata for
violin and piano. So I think there’s this very strong
sense that there is the sense of the unknown, that the
theme has to come back and Mozart plays it again. And it’s imbued with ever new
levels of fantasy and ornamentation. And there’s this possibly erroneous
myth surrounding this piece, and that is that Mozart really had to write this sonata
incredibly quickly for this private concert
for the Archbishop. And that the reports
are that he played from basically the vaguest
sort of piece of paper with no real information on it. And I think the message
that that is sending is that possibly Mozart gave Brunetti, who played this, clear
notes to play. Like here’s the adagio
and here’s the allegro and here’s the variation set,
and here’s what you have to do. But I like to think — and this
is probably a little romantic — but I think possibly Mozart didn’t
really know what exactly was going to happen in the variation
movements, let’s say. He had some idea of
what the basic character of each variation would be. But possibly he had a very,
very rudimentary sketch for himself to play from. Which ties into issues
with Beethoven as well relates this
is really a case of a composer should be involved in the performance of
something of later. But this is really a case of a
composer actually being involved in the performance of something. And that this being the manuscript
stage of a text like that — which is probably compared to what
he played from in the performance — even a much richer, more fully
documented version of that.>>David Plylar: This
is fascinating. Why don’t we compare this — well,
we don’t have a direct comparison. Why don’t we take a look at some
works that straddle this here, in terms of we have
a recent acquisition of a new Haydn manuscript and also
one that we’ve had for a while. So a Haydn crescendo
and a Haydn sonata. If you can kind of situate them. And these are the.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Fantastic.>>David Plylar: The next piece
that we’re going to take a look at is a very recent
acquisition, as in last week. So it’s very new to
us at the Library. This is the Haydn Capriccio
dating from I believe 1765.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Sounds right, yeah. In fact, I think I got an
email last week saying, we’ve just got this piece,
might you consider playing this in your recital.>>David Plylar: Yeah,
we apologize for that.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
No, don’t be silly. It’s just it’s actually it’s
quite a thorny and tricky and difficult to negotiate piece. It’s one of those pieces that you
think, oh, this looks charming. But there’s a lot of very
thorny stuff in this piece.>>David Plylar: Yeah,
and it’s also — it might not have been the
most appropriate selection for the program as well.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: I know, because the program is very
serious and kind of very, yeah.>>David Plylar: But
this is I believe based on an Austria folktale.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
We think so, yes. It’s a little unclear exactly
what, but, yes, that’s right. And it does kind of — I don’t
know exactly what the text is, but it’s outrageous, one
needs [inaudible] castrations or something like that. It’s really probably kind of
really toilet humor stuff I think. I’ve not played the
piece, but right. It’s very interesting the few
shorter works that Haydn has — the one I played last night, the
set of variations in F minor, and the C major Fantasia
and other pieces like it, it’s so fascinating how
these pieces are so different from the so-called serious
pieces in sonata form. And Haydn I think really
takes that to a degree of kind of comic absurdity that’s just
— that oscillates between that and a piece like the
F minor variations, which is so deeply serious and kind
of structured and thought about and really like just a real
piece of art music in a sense.>>David Plylar: I mean,
not to divert to the program that you played last night, but
you almost have an inverted sense of Haydn the jokester versus Beethoven the
jokester in the second sonata. Which I think is hilarious
in many ways. Then you paired that with
the very serious Haydn work. So it was nice to see all that — of course, all these
composers are very — you know, have multiple things
that they offer, more than we tend to describe them generically.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
That’s very true because I mean, Beethoven is very humorous at times. But often people are more drawn to
the kind of pathos rhythm writing in the keyboard sonatas perhaps
than they would be to the jocular, like let’s poke fun at things. That’s a nice point, absolutely.>>David Plylar: So around 1765, what kind of an instrument
might Haydn have been looking at or playing on?>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Well,
Haydn is one of these people who plays just every possible — or he’s exposed to every possible
keyboard through the course of the trajectory of his
career as a composer, pianist. Let’s say a composer who
plays the piano and writes for keyboard instruments. I’m only saying that because I think
Haydn is one of these genius types who writes for instruments,
but it’s very clear that Haydn doesn’t identify himself
as a keyboard player when he goes to bed at night or
wakes up in the morning. And I think people like Mozart
and Beethoven really do and did. Mozart really, the whole of his
career, and Beethoven pretty much until the early 19th century,
when he starts to realize that — let’s say possibly until the fourth
piano contatto when he realizes that the reality of
playing in public as a virtuoso pianist suddenly
is not an option anymore. And I think Haydn really never
thinks of himself like that but happens to write for
keyboard instruments. So I think if you look at the
keyboard sonatas, there’s the sense that he’s writing certainly
with the clavichord in mind, possibly not as any vehicle for
any kind of real performance but as an imaginary
stage full of performance in which the clavichord would
be the mode of expression. So that’s the first stage where
you have maximum intimacy, kind of private theater of
exploration with the clavichord. And then you go to his music,
which is clearly inspired by the harpsichord, or could have
been played on the harpsichord, or the harpsichord may have been
the instrument that he was using to actually bring these
pieces across. And then we go from that to the late
18th century five octave fortepiano, or the very early 19th century,
five octave Viennese fortepiano. The piano I played last
night, the Schultz, copy by Tom and Barbara Wolf. Haydn was a huge fan of those
pianos and cherished their sound and their articulation possibilities
and the color possibilities that they have to offer
as well enormously. And then as we’ll get to in
a minute, you go from that to the pianos that Haydn
got to know when he was in London for his visits there. Which are completely different
beasts from Viennese instruments. They have a kind of
denser, richer sound. They have a less scientifically
Viennese perfect approach to damping. So the sound is a lot more kind
of air and hallo around it. So the thing with Haydn is that you
have to sort of situate every piece, every sonata, every
shorter work, and try and find the logic
from where to put it. Feasibly where it was played. What keyboard it might
have been played on. And a piece like this Capriccio is
so interesting because it’s so kind of extensively folksy and banal. You have to find a way of coming up
with a program for understanding, okay, which instrument what
was he playing this on? Which instrument did he
imagine this to be played on? Does it make sense to
take it to the fortepiano if it may have been
a harpsichord piece? It’s pretty clear I think that
Haydn was not in this stage where he was really
exposed to keyboard, like real piano instruments,
at this stage. So it must’ve been some kind
of intersection of clavichord or harpsichord, possibly
harpsichord. But Haydn is a fascinating — it’s a
fascinating journey that he goes on. Because he’s — I mean, historically
speaking, we’re talking about 1732 to 1809, and that is
like the transformation that one witnesses in
that period is just.>>David Plylar: Amazing.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
But you see also, I think it’s so interesting
that this is a folk song so one’s not expecting
mega sophisticated or complicated notational extras. But there’s really no
articulation of any kind. It’s just the notes. There isn’t a dynamic
marking in sight. I thought it was interesting
in the 379, in the Mozart, Mozart begins with not a huge amount
of information about dynamics. He doesn’t say, you know, dolce
or mezzo forte or anything like this or forte or piano. But the articulations are cared
for in such a deeply detailed way. But here we have nothing. We have moderato to tell
us what the character is. It’s probably forte because most
pieces begin forte unless you hear otherwise. [inaudible] Exactly. A kind of wedge here or
there to show likeness. But it’s really just it’s kind
of presentational in a sense. And it’s a very — I don’t know, I think I’m definitely
way over-analyzing this. But it’s a lot more —
it’s very ordered in a way. Everything is very neat. The script doesn’t
really change very much. The density of the notes,
in a sense, it’s very.>>David Plylar: Yeah, I
almost wonder if there’s — I know no idea if this is
just out of left field — but it looks the bar lines are
almost pre-ruled or something.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Yes, yes.>>David Plylar: Because
there’s such uniformity.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Right. I mean, I guess he’s
in a handy situation because he’s got a triple
time variating Capriccio here where he’s not — it’s not like
the Mozart where he is sort of figuring out as he goes along. It’s like, oh, dear, I need to
read in 30-second notes now, that’s going to be challenging. One thing that’s so vividly clear
about this, when you see it, is how much Haydn is so
interested in playing around with texture as
a form of variation. So I think becomes so
attractive for Beethoven as well. Mozart is too, but it’s kind of very
vividly visual here, when you see, okay, here we have triplets
in the left hand now, and now we have triplets
in the right hand. And this is sort of a textual device
that’s really used for, you know, for big, big lines of music.>>David Plylar: Yeah. And you then you have those
like the sudden pop-outs of register [inaudible].>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Yes, absolutely.>>David Plylar: Yeah, it’s quite
theatrical but also effective just in terms of setting
up that kind of — not a swampon [phonetic]
sound but something.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Well, that’s the thing is, I guess when you’ve got —
he’s got this theme obviously, but it becomes the charm of these
variations, a capriccio like this, or any type of thing where
something is repeated over and over, and it gets objected
to these modifications. This sort of delight
in the simplest means, but the most graphically-varied
textual devices is such a — I think 18th century audiences
would’ve found this absolutely so charming and almost like
a Disney movie in a sense. It’s like, oh, wow, that’s amazing. How did you come up with that? And who knows what the
intersection is between how much of it was really improvised
or how much of it was kind of quasi-improvised, and
then people go home and say, that was a great idea, let
me just tweak it a bit more.>>David Plylar: You know,
another thing that’s interesting about this just thinking of your
performance last night of the — trying to think exactly where
this happens in the variations. But where he’ll do a figure,
like a broken octave figure, in one register, and then
emulate it in another one as kind of a reference point but also as a
developmental tool and also a sonic. It’s very — I always find
it fascinating with Haydn and Beethoven especially
does that as well.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Yes, that’s very true.>>David Plylar: But you can
kind of see that happening.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Yeah, very clearly. It’s interesting too, we’ve
got G major to G major 379, I don’t think we really
planned that that way.>>David Plylar: You know, one
thing that pops out here also is that there’s this stretch of
about six or seven bars where — and it’s going a little bit — where
the ink seems distinctly different.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: It does.>>David Plylar: And
it’s not that clear that it’s a re-inking situation or rather maybe something
an over-writing, just because there is some
distinct coloration between the two.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Yes. And we haven’t seen that
kind of variety before or — I mean, it’s not like the
Mozart where there are sort of more intense places,
and, you know, it’s kind of all mixed in together. It’s very — the coloration is
very clearly different here just for a small stretch, and then.>>David Plylar: Yeah. And I’m not sure whether
this was something that was amended later
just to bring clarity. Because it doesn’t look
like there are changes in pitches or anything like that.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: No.>>David Plylar: I don’t
know whether it was in Haydn’s hand or not.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Also
interesting that you suddenly get — and it’s true in the F
minor variations as well. And it was always hard to know
what to do in these pieces where, you’re playing a piece that’s
actually a variation set, so the suspension of disbelief
is that the audience is trying to convince themselves that
you’re actually improvising it. But then there are these places in
the piece where you actually do get to a place where you have to say,
well, what do I do now actually? Like, do I add something here? And invariably, these are the
places in the Mozart variation set or in a piano connata or something
like this where there’s a fermata over a chord and then there’s an
arpeggio here between the hands that goes up the keyboard. And one then has to do
decide, okay, is this a place where I add something else? We know that Mozart plays
lead-ins in piano cantatas to get from the dominant back to the
theme, or in many situations, and he rarely writes those out unless he’s preparing
something for publication. But it’s really it’s a big kind
of a quandary in a way, because.>>David Plylar: What would your
instinct be, like say in this case?>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: It’s
funny, my instinct would be not to do something there actually. And I don’t know why,
because normally I’m always for careful connective
tissue like that. Like in 379, I think there are
probably missing lead-ins as well to get from the —
it’s a tough call. But possibly when you arrive
on D major before you get to the G minor movement,
there’s a case to be made for doing something there. But, again, there’s not a
seventh chord, so maybe not. I don’t know, I think some
of Haydn’s rye charm is that you’re playing this piece
that’s a variation piece, and then when you get to one place where you might actually
really do something, no. I don’t know, and that’s
possibly way too sophisticated. Apparently when I think it was when
Czerny played the Beethoven quintet for piano and winds,
I think maybe he — the story goes that he improvised
a lead-in of some kind or some kind of unsanctioned improvisatory
material happened. And Beethoven was furious with him. Because, he said, I mean, look,
you weren’t playing what I wrote, that’s just — you know,
why did you do that? And I think sometimes
there’s this sense that when Beethoven writes music
that he wants to sound improvised, he wants to control
exactly how it sounds. And this is why he
starts doing things like in the second piano connata
where he writes out the cadenza or in the emperor connata,
because he doesn’t want to leave it to chance because he’s
such a control freak. I’m sure Haydn wasn’t
quite as maniacal as that. But it’s hard to know,
we don’t have much to go on about Haydn’s specific
thoughts about the subject. Right, and I mean,
these tropes, as well, you see these variation movements. They have everything. They have triplets. They have a minor variation. They have broken notes
in the octaves. They have octaves with
seconds as well. All these kind of stock virtuoso
devices that are really — I mean, I hadn’t though
of it until now, but the fact that this is really so
early, really shows you where a lot of these default settings
come from for someone like Mozart 20 years later.>>David Plylar: Well, I mean, to
make a large contrast with this, maybe we should look
at the [inaudible]>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Yes, absolutely.>>David Plylar: From
about 30 years later.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: That’s
extraordinary to even think of, that it could be 30 years later. I mean, Schubert has one year
of life left, Mozart has five. Yeah. So Haydn — it’s
so tantalizing, all these concurrent events. Because Solomon invites
Haydn to come to London. It’s kind of a big
celebrity star composer. I mean, in some sense
this is kind of one of the first times this happens,
that a composer is invited to come to a foreign city as
a celebrity composer. I mean, Haydn is not coming
to London to play private — I mean, to play concerts
as a pianist, because he’s a well-known virtuoso. He’s coming because
he’s a celebrity. And they want him to write music
specifically for the London visit, which is played in
London for the first time. I mean, someone like Mozart
travels around to cities, but he’s writing music
for those cities in a hope that they might give
him some position. And Haydn is not doing
that in London. He’s just there to kind of sit
tight, get paid a lot of money, and write music and enjoy
a kind of paid vacation. And what’s so interesting is that
it seems like Solomon was desperate to get Mozart to come
to London as well. And Mozart was an avowed Anglophile. He loved English things and
was very interested in English. So, I don’t know, it’s kind of
wistful to think might’ve come of a Mozart London visit, you
know, at that stage of his life. Because, of course, he
was there in the 1760s.>>David Plylar: Forgive
my ignorance on this. But would he — so Mozart would
not have had as great exposure to the other types of
keyboard instruments as Haydn?>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Well,
this is a very good question. I mean, it’s very clear that Mozart’s training is very
much organ and harpsichord based. I don’t know how much clavichord
Mozart would’ve been playing. And I’m not sure that Mozart
ever had a very clear sense of the clavichord as being a
kind of expressive tool for him in the same way that we know it was
for [inaudible], also for Haydn. I think what happens with Mozart,
my theory, is that Mozart goes along as a super well-trained keyboard pro
from the harpsichord and the organ. And then in around
let’s say 1775/6/7, he starts to change
his thinking in a way. And that coincides with
the fact that he gets to know these South German
fortepianos built by Stein. And I think they kind of — things lock in in a
certain way where he kind of has a very strong idea of what
the sound that he wants to create from his music because
of this new piano and the possibilities
that it affords him. He played square pianos when
he was in London in the 1760s, when he was touring around and
had met Johann Sebastian Bach. But I think it’s that moment in the
middle of the 70s when he realizes that he doesn’t want to be
a violinist anymore really, because it represents the tyranny
of his father and Salzburg. And he finds this gorgeous
new piano. And he says, okay, I could write
lots of music for this piano, which is deeply idiomatically
designed for it. And then maybe I can move to
Vienna later and become a big star, and maybe I could play public
concerts on this instrument and become a — and then I could
get a job as an opera composer because foot in the door. But Mozart doesn’t play
English instruments. And that’s what’s so fascinating
about this visit to London, is that Haydn meets these newfangled
English/French style pianos. Which are so, as we said earlier, so
different from Viennese instruments. And then he has to come up
with a way to write for them that makes sense for
the English public. So you see — and, again, this is
all — you see these richly-scored, richly-scored left hand chords,
full notes, really densely — I mean, look at the second chord, this E flat seven chord
leading to E flat major. I mean, that is really
thick business down there. It’s really the chocolate,
deep, full fat, chordal writing. Which is curious, because, in fact,
these English pianos are known for a much kind of denser,
richer sound anyway. So you might think, well, wouldn’t
Haydn write less dense chords? Yeah, but he’s sort of.>>David Plylar: Embracing it.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Totally. He’s like, okay, we’ll
really do this. But you can tell that his
sense of textural awareness, vis-a-vis what the instrument has to
offer, is just instantly in place. You’ve got thick chords around the
tenor region, nothing too high. But then immediately, he transfers
some of these motives and themes to an octave higher, and crucially
with the left hand playing in this very light kind
of hop-like guitar area. And then even higher than that after
that in thirds sort of non-music in a sense, like just
a little motive, repeat it again and repeat it again. And then thirds kind of cascading
down, which return to some kind of thematic material again. But the whole thing is very
choreographed, very visual, very theatrical in a sense. And you can just sort of see it. It’s like — I mean , even when you
step back, it really looks like — it looks a story is
being told in a sense. And also, notice how — I mean,
compared to the capriccio, how super fussy Haydn
is in this piece.>>David Plylar: Start
with the dynamics.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: And slurs
that are sometimes in curious places that go curiously long as well. Accents in metrically
weak parts of the bar, very specific two note
slurs that are then followed by wedges and short notes. It’s clearly very cultivated, very
thought about, really artfully put down on the page, not just
the material as they were.>>David Plylar: Yeah. And I guess I didn’t think
to look at another edition of this before coming over. But just speaking of what
you’re saying, but the clarity of the slurs that he’s writing. We have it there but then
they’re suddenly absent. Would the assumption be that he
meant that to be a simile type of?>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: This is such an amazingly
good question with Haydn. I mean, you see like
in the Capriccio, the lack of articulation
cannot stand for the idea there is no
articulation going on. The question is just what
is the basic character that he’s trying to convey? And what is the articulation
that you use to bring that across in the best way? Haydn, I think Haydn is really one
of these people who tries to set up a basic paradigm notationally
or within articulation and then he tries to say, okay, now
go out into the world and figure out the rest for yourself. Mozart very rarely does that. But that’s a wonderful
example of that. We can get a bit caught up in our
kind of vortex mentality when we see that slurs are not there, then
we stop playing connected. And I think that might be
a little bit too literal of an interpretation
of a lot of his stuff. On the other hand, it’s
all shades of gray. One has to be very careful
about coming up with any rule that suits any — that suits
way too many situations. I think it’s all really case by
case in a situation like this. Although these last — these English
sonatas are fiercely detailed by Haydn’s standards, both
articulation in the matters of articulation, and also dynamics. There’s this theory that’s positive that Haydn writes these
English sonatas. And then the idea is, well, what
happens when you get back to Vienna and you want to play
this gorgeous new piece that Haydn wrote in London? But we haven’t had the
chance to play it here yet. And what do you do? Like how do play a sonata like
this on a Viennese instrument from the same time, versus those
people who got to play this in London on a broad wood
or something like that. It’s a wonderful sense of fun about
people discovering these pieces and thinking, gosh, what
is Hadyn thinking here?>>David Plylar: Right. They would have had more variety
kind of at their fingertips, depending on where they are
regionally, than we do today.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
That’s right, absolutely. That’s very well put. I think too, when you
look at these — when you look at something like the
E flat sonata, the C major as well, you can just really see how
much of a theater of gestures, kind of absurd comedic stuff,
wildly differing textures and moods, just built into the
rhetorical style of this music. And which becomes — which is
so beguiling and attractive for someone like Beethoven. I mean, we don’t really
have any kind of gorgeous melodies
to latch onto here. It’s just sort of these kind of
almost second Viennese school style, like little snippets of things and
then stop and now new this thing.>>David Plylar: Like even here,
like in this moment in here that strikes you as a
very Beethovenian type.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Totally, totally.>>David Plylar: Approach. Just to kind of isolate
dramatically.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
That being said, it’s, again, super Beethovenian in the sense that
the basic setting that’s established in a movement like this, which
is kind of grand marshal E flat, dotted rhythms, but then
these weird textural contrasts in the upper treble, combined
with sort of flippant short notes and then intimations of
melody in the tenor regions but never really fulfilled. Is then completely contradicted in
the second movement in this image.>>David Plylar: Which
in itself is a strange.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Again, like what does someone in 1793 make of that, that choice? I mean, this is something
that Mozart would never in a million years even
consider as a key choice. But then you’ve got this kind of richly lyrical heartfelt
melody in image. I mean, it’s a melody but then
it’s also fragmented and it breaks down into these shorter notes that
you see It’s kind of a little bit like Beethoven in the sense that
it’s just kind of a state of being. It’s this kind of psychological
position that you’re in in a movement like this. And not so much this beautiful
melody that has, you know, antecedent and consequent and exactly you know
what you’re going to get. I mean, the fret structure is clear,
but it’s always very so theatrical, so like not grounded
in reality somehow. And also, Hadyn’s incredible
fussiness with writing out these very strange,
hugely idiosyncratic, ornamental material styles that
he introduces in this movement, also the back-and-forth between
E major and the minor modes that we also were talking about
in the F minor variations. Just you start in E major and
then you just go to E minor. You don’t really —
you just are there.>>David Plylar: And this might be
a little bit too technical point for this conversation, but
you notice things like his use of octaves as a color,
it almost feels — as opposed to any sort of
reinforcement type of thing. When he lands on a
semimelodic octave and then quickly pivots
away from that. And it’s just so beautiful
to see that kind of thinking.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
That’s right. And you have to understand
that hearing — we see these, this kind
of a chord and we know it, because we know what
happens in the 19th century. But a chord like this really
sends shockwaves through the earth because it’s a new sound. Like certain sonatas that
Beethoven comes up with. They’re invented in that
moment and then they open doors for future experimentation. It actually ended up being
a really, I don’t know, serendipitous, the choice of pieces. I don’t know why necessarily, but this idea of 379 being
this three movement piece, but actually functioning
as a two movement piece in the sense it’s almost
identical to 109. That you’ve got this
intersection of fantasy and sonata happening at this point. I mean, in the 1820s when
Beethoven is writing this, he doesn’t want the
sonata to feel like — he doesn’t want it to feel like a formal four-movement
affair like his earlier pieces. Where you’ve got a first movement in
sonata form, second movement adagio, third movement scherzo and
trio or minuet and trio and then last movement
some kind of virtuoso romp. It’s supposed to be this sort of
slithering creature that just goes in and out of these
various states of being. And then you write this first
movement, which is a sort of — I mean, 109 is extraordinary
because it feels like it could be like a Chopin prelude for a
while or a bagatelle maybe, and then it breaks down into fantasy
with all these diminished chords.>>David Plylar: It
also feels like to me, it feels like it starts
in the middle.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Totally, yes. As if you’re in a recording session
and you’re kind of in mid-take. It’s so fascinating in the sense
that 110 and 111 have very — their different ways,
but they really — they’re pieces that really begin. You really know, okay.>>David Plylar: Right, right.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
And also — and this is just so
amazing because — it’s so weird how in terms of spacing how counterintuitive
this is. I mean, the music that’s
happening here at the beginning [sounds]
is actually really small, like it could take
up half that room. And yet it really it
takes up a lot of space. It’s like every note is kind of
being found and written down. And then as things get louder,
like the strokes get more intense, and there’s a bit more
ink and little messes here and there, and then it sort of.>>David Plylar: Yeah, I have
a colleague here, Ray White, who always says that — especially
with Beethoven and with others — you get a sense of that
personality from the way that they annotate things. And you also get a sense
of where they are — I mean, it’s only one supposes
that one has the sense, it may not have been that way. But you have the sense of where they
are in their compositional moment, that they maybe have
some degree of excitement about an idea or some [inaudible].>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Right. And so it really looks
like what it sounds like. It’s kind of searching and improvisatory bagatelle
meets fantasy meets kind of moving prelude. It’s everything that a first note
of sonata should not be doing, even in the 1820s in a sense. But then the thing is, with the
ensuing E minor material, you know, are these supposed to
be separate things? They’re actually literally linked in
the way that the pedal is held down. But this sense of, you know,
is this three movements, or is it kind of two little
mini movements and then linked to those set of variations
at the end? But as we were saying with 379, this
wonderful sense that you have kind of a first movement
that’s finding itself in a little bit lost improvisation,
and then you’ve got something kind of slightly more nailed
down in the minor mode, in this case, in E minor. Like 379, something in triple
time structured with a theme and a real sense of more kind of
classical structure and rigger. And then you sort of finish that
and then you’ve got this kind of really serene heavenly set
of variations in E major, again, in triple time that
defy expectations of what a keyboard sonata
should be doing at this time. I mean, Mozart — Beethoven had
already written variation movements in sonatas before, as had Mozart. But it’s a really — it’s
still a really strong gesture of questioning what the
form is capable of doing. It’s just it’s so touching.>>David Plylar: I’ll just point
out, I think goes quite along with your notion of this looking at
like a fantasy and fantastic thing.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Yes.>>David Plylar: It’s one thing
to have extensions that go into the margins where
there’s a scale that’s going to be [inaudible]. That doesn’t strike me
as compositionally as, you know, unusual to see.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Yes.>>David Plylar: But there
are other places where — like here, where it looks like
there’s an insertion of a measure.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Right.>>David Plylar: From
what was already composed. That actually creates
quite a different — I can’t say for sure that
it was meant to not have that original piece, but if it
was, that’s quite a difference on the take of the whole apparatus.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
That’s very true. Like a completely new sort of new
thinking about something in a sense. And not, oh, I just have to
sort of fit this in somehow.>>David Plylar: And
it’s not that it’s — it’s a simple edition
that’s in character with the rest of what’s going on. Which means it could
be also [inaudible], copying slip, that happens. Let’s take a look at
one or two more pages.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Yes. Yeah, these, it’s so amazing. These places where the piece really
breaks into these fantasy moments where you have these cascading
[inaudible] down and up. They just look like that. They’re appropriately
hectic or fraud. They just really look like trouble.>>David Plylar: Yeah. And then you have this
literal writing out of forte that’s almost angry.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout: Yes. [inaudible] And yeah, it’s just
pure emotion somehow. Yeah, it’s just so extraordinary
how much space these bars take up. I mean, it’s like every
one is a real — like is sort of etched like down. And there’s no fluidity here, even though the music actually
is very fast and sounds like it’s really going
along, you know, like a duck just sort
of gliding along a pond. But there’s a sense of every bar
being kind of fought for and won. And here’s the andante. And, again, you know,
somehow this sense — I think Hadyn and Beethoven
are really lined up about how they think
about keys so strongly. Like this could be — you
know, this is absolutely cut from the same cloth as the
flat sonata from the 1790s. You know, it’s this sense of
hymnal devotional E major, a piece of great reverence
and internal kind of struggles with divinity or spirituality. These are really strong
ideas for Beethoven. And I think maybe not — he didn’t
literally get them from Hadyn from it on a philosophical level,
but they’re the same struggles, and E major is a very strong
choice of key for him I think. And also you see this
sense of the crescendos, the hairpins really having a kind
of — they’re just, you know, you can feel the emotion
in them actually. It’s sort of like — the expression of these places is actually
he’s trying desperately to actually just build it
in here and show it and as if he’s actually doing it with
you, with it, as he’s writing it. Damn it.>>David Plylar: It’s
performative aspects to the writing.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Totally, totally. Yeah, and again, like what
we’ve been talking about, this Beethoven suddenly exposed
these worlds of texture, like trills and repeated notes and arpeggios
and all manner of almost like Impressionist,
swimmingly liquid types of new piano sounds in
a movement like this. He sort of just abandons all
fear about what is possible in these last three sonatas. Any type of new figuration that’s
possible, especially in 111, but also crucially here in 109. And, again, like the
trajectory of that through the through three pieces is really — the four pieces, is
really fascinating.>>David Plylar: Well, I’d
like to thank you so much.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Thank you, David. What a pleasure.>>David Plylar: To be able to speak
here with Kristian Bezuidenhout. And it’s been a great pleasure to
hear him on fortepiano last night and also to speak with him
about these manuscripts. So thanks again.>>Kristian Bezuidenhout:
Thank you, David.>>This has been a presentation
at the Library of Congress. Visit us at LOC.GOV.

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