Japanese born, London resident, pianist Mitsuko Uchida plays and directs
in two of Mozartís piano concertos. Uchida is widely recognised as a Mozart
specialist and her now classic set of the Piano Sonatas, recorded in 1983/87
in London, has been a constant and eminently satisfying companion since its
first release on Philips. Additionally I have greatly enjoyed her Mozart
Piano Concertos recorded in 1985/90 with the English Chamber Orchestra under
Jeffrey Tate and reissued in 2006 on Philips.
Now after more than twenty years it is pleasing to see Uchida recording in
Severance Hall a new live series directing The Cleveland Orchestra from the
keyboard. I have been thrilled with the first three releases: First Nos 23
and 24, recorded in 2008 on Decca 4781524 which won a 2011 Grammy award.
Second the release of Nos. 20 and 27 recorded in 2010 on Decca 4782596 and
the third - Nos. 9 and 21 - recorded in 2012 on Decca 4783539
The year 1784 was incredibly productive for Mozart. He composed no fewer
than six piano concertos for his popular Vienna subscription concerts
including the two concertos recorded here. First Uchida plays No. 19, a
highly popular work probably written for Mozartís own use. A positive
quality grips Uchidaís interpretation of this good humoured score from first
to last. She creates an idyllic radiance in the Allegretto
exquisitely fresh feel to the sparkling passagework.
Next we hear No. 18, a work thought to have been written for Maria
Theresia von Paradis, a blind pianist who toured European capitals. With
spellbinding grace Uchida demonstrates clear and precise articulation with
her fingers dancing balletically across the keys. A highlight is the
, a theme and set of variations with coda,
revealing an engaging interplay with the orchestra.
Directed by Uchida it is hard to find fault with The Cleveland Orchestra
such a responsive and warm-hearted partner.
Grumbles, well I have only a couple of minor ones. Even though I cherish
Uchidaís ultra-stylish approach and light textures, at times, part of me
wants to hear the results of a little additional exuberance and extra weight
especially in the outer movements. Very occasionally these interpretations
feel a touch too studied at the expense of spontaneity. Recorded at a series
of live concerts the Decca engineers have provided vividly clear sound and
an agreeable balance between piano and orchestra. There is no intrusive
audience noise and the applause has been taken out.
There are several excellent, mainly digital sets, of the Mozart piano
concertos that should satisfy most tastes; unless looking for
period-instrument performances. Further to the Uchida/Tate set I also admire
those from Murray Perahia directing the ECO from the keyboard recorded
1975/88 and reissued in 2012 on Sony and from Daniel Barenboim directing
from the keyboard the Berliner Philharmoniker, recorded 1986/98 and
re-issued in 2005 on Warner Classics. One of the finest and most collectable
of the more recent single Mozart releases is from Maria Jo„o Pires playing
the Piano Concertos Nos 20 and 27 with the Orchestra Mozart under Claudio
Abbado. These were recorded in 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon
. Uchida and her close contemporary Maria
Jo„o Pires, both artists in their prime, are the most consistently
exceptional Mozart performers on the world stage today.
Once again the classy Uchida demonstrates remarkable form on this latest
Previous review: Ralph Moore
Concertos 18 & 19