A little while
ago Uchida played these sonatas at London's Festival Hall,
a recital I referred to as presenting 'work in progress' (see
I also suggested that the final recorded performances, presumably
several years hence, should reveal much deeper interpretations.
The fact is that
Uchida entered the studio too early. Her deep study of the
scores is in evidence from her own booklet notes, an illustrated
analysis that touches on matters motivic as well as harmonic.
It is clear she is aware of the gravity of her undertaking
and she is blessed by a truly professional recording of great
So to the recording.
The great Op. 109's first movement plays to all of Uchida's
many strengths. There is an easy flow, great timbral variety.
The finale's Variations provide the acid test, though Uchida
begins calmly this is not a transcendental calm; further,
as the movement progressed, I found myself longing for the
thought. Despite many positives – fine finger strength, astonishing
staccato – the final return of the Theme fails to make its
effect, as if the preceding struggle failed to shed any new
light on its contents.
The next Sonata
is, in fairness, much better. Despite some left-hand pedestrianism
in the first movement (plonky chords), there is nevertheless
an overarching peace here. The only disappointing part of
this reading is the rather careful second movement – the Adagio
ma non troppo
is appropriately innig
in nature and
the final Fugue almost
communes with late Beethoven's
spirit, rising to an impressive climax.
Finally, Op. 111.
As before, the individual characters of various passages
are all present and correct. The opening is nicely declamatory,
the later octave semiquavers exciting. Yet where is an omniscience à la
Schnabel (see review
)? Impressive that the second movement
emerges organically out of the first, but as in the case
of Op. 109
not quite take us on an outing to the Elysian fields. While
one might sit agape at her perfect trills - stunning - it
is telling that Beethoven's huge left-right hand registral
do not make their full effect.
Despite many moments
of beauty, I still question Uchida's affinity with late-Beethoven.