The period keyboard wizard reveals the secrets of his unruly instrument and why playing it is like musical bonsai.

Fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout is a citizen of the world with a penchant for the past. With a busy schedule of concert appearances and recording projects on the go, pinning the South African-born, Australian-educated, London-based period keyboard specialist down is in itself a challenge. Fortunately, the opportunity presented itself earlier this week in Sydney where Paul Dyer has invited him to guest lead the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra in a programme of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Watching his compact form neatly tucked in behind his instrument of choice in a rehearsal studio at the Opera Centre in Surry Hills you are immediately struck by the virtuoso’s clarity of thought and economy of gesture. Sporting a slightly quirky, mercurial quality, there’s something of the Mozart about him too – a not inappropriate resemblance as Bezuidenhout is not only one of the best at playing Mozart on the fortepiano, he’s perhaps the finest Mozart player around today, full stop. But what makes a pianist forgo the expansive style of a Franz Liszt to confront the focus and physical challenge required to play Mozart as...

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