I am a long-time admirer of Mitsuko Uchida’s playing especially
her Mozart. Uchida’s set of the Piano Sonatas, recorded in London
in 1983/87, has been a constant and comforting companion since its
release on Philips 468 3562. I have also greatly enjoyed her set of
the Mozart Piano Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra under
Jeffrey Tate: an 8CD box set from 2006 on Philips 475 7306.
There are many excellent sets of the Mozart Piano Concertos and these
will satisfy the majority of tastes. The ones I have played the most
are those from Murray Perahia directing the ECO from the keyboard
on Sony SX12K46441 and Daniel Barenboim also as soloist directing
the Berliner Philharmoniker on Warner Classics 2564619192.
After some twenty years it is pleasing to see that Mitsuko Uchida
is recording live a new selection of the Mozart concertos. I have
been thrilled with the first two releases: Firstly the Piano Concertos
23 and 24, recorded in 2008 on Decca 4781524 which won a Grammy award
in 2011 for The Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with Orchestra).
Second is the release of the Concertos 20 and 27 recorded in 2010
on Decca 478 2596. Earlier this year she played a series of three
concerts at the Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio leading the Cleveland
Orchestra from the piano in Concertos 9 and 21.
The Piano Concerto No. 9 is known as the Jeunehomme
after a French woman pianist Mlle Jeunehomme who may or may not have
existed. The latest thinking is that the concerto was actually written
for a pianist named Victoire Jenamy who in 1776 Vienna had commissioned
the work. The attractive music of the opening Allegro is based
around two motifs one for the soloist and one for the orchestra. Involved
virtually right from the start of the Allegro, the delicacy
and satisfying lucidity of Uchida’s playing is palpable. In
the Andantino the piano weeps its way through sorrowful writing
yet still manages to radiate a sense of hope. There is such surety
and fluidity in the playing that it feels completely natural. Characterful
writing in the enjoyable Rondo, Finale is strongly reminiscent
of a Mozartean comic opera. It’s given here with buoyant vivacity.
With the exception of the slow and reflective Minuet the music
becomes progressively elaborate remaining compellingly vibrant. The
Cleveland Orchestra is a model of refinement throughout.
Completed in 1785 the Piano Concerto No. 21 is sometimes known
as Elvira Madigan after the Andante was featured in
the 1967 Swedish film of the same name directed by Bo Widerberg. The
lengthy opening Allegro maestoso is majestic and highly melodic
with Uchida displaying a wonderful lightness of touch and fluidity.
Probably Mozart’s most enduringly celebrated slow movement,
the exceedingly memorable and tender Andante is played with
affecting delicacy. In the Rondo, Finale Uchida gives
a sparkling and dashing performance with an abundance of disarming
ebullience. I was struck by Uchida’s exquisite and empathetic
control yet she still manages to radiate an evincible sense of spontaneity.
The stunning orchestral playing is a characteristic of this impeccable
Recorded live at a series of three live concerts at the Severance
Hall, Cleveland, Uchida playing a new Hamburg Steinway has been superbly
recorded by the Decca engineers with admirable balance and sound.
There is no intrusive audience sound and any applause has been taken
out. At times some slight noise from the soloist can be heard but
nothing problematic. Uchida, who was born to play Mozart, is in exemplary
form from start to finish here reaching empyreal heights.
See also review by Ralph
Masterwork Index: Concerto
9 ~~ Concerto