Japanese-British pianist Mitsuko Uchida continues to impress with recordings that are not so much intellectual as simply well thought out, making a challenging yet extremely satisfying overall impression. Consider the three works by Robert Schumann recorded here. Only the Waldszenen, Op. 82 (Forest Scenes), are well known. The Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22, is an early but not immature work, composed in 1830 and supplied with a new finale in 1838 at the suggestion of Clara Schumann, who pointed out that while she could play the original version, few others would be able to.
For her fifth live recording of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's piano concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra, Mitsuko Uchida presents the Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K 453, and the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K 503, a delightful pairing that reflects her previous albums in this critically acclaimed series on Decca.
The greatest of Mozart's wind serenades and the toughest of Alban Berg's major works might seem an unlikely pairing, but in an interview included with the sleeve notes for this release, Pierre Boulez points up their similarities. Both works are scored for an ensemble of 13 wind instruments (with solo violin and piano as well in the Berg) and both include large-scale variations as one of their movements - and Boulez makes the comparisons plausible enough in these lucid performances. It's rare to hear him conducting Mozart, too, and if the performance is a little brisker and more strait-laced than ideal, the EIC's phrasing is a model of clarity and good taste. It's the performance of the Berg, though, that makes this such an important issue; both soloists, Mitsuko Uchida and Christian Tetzlaff, are perfectly attuned to Boulez's approach - they have given a number of performances of the Chamber Concerto before - and the combination of accuracy and textural clarity with the highly wrought expressiveness that is the essence of Berg's music is perfectly caught.
Mitsuko Uchida has been a committed exponent of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto for over a decade now. It is a work which remains controversial in its adaptation of the serial method to an almost Brahmsian harmonic palette, wedded to a formal approach that takes up the integrated design, and textural richness, of Schoenberg's pre-atonal works. Certainly in terms of the balance between soloist and orchestra, this recording clarifies the often capricious interplay to a degree previously unheard on disc (and most likely in the concert hall too).Interpretatively, it combines Pollini's dynamism, without the hectoring touch that creeps into the Adagio's climactic passages, and Brendel's lucidity, avoiding the deadpan feeling that pervades his final Giocoso.
Mitsuko Uchida is one of the finest interpreters of Mozart's piano music. She brings to this music a lightness and delicacy that fits it perfectly. This 5 CD set, which groups recordings made in the 1980s, includes all of Mozart's piano sonatas and one fantasia. This is not all of Mozart's piano music; one may regret that Phillips did not decide to go a bit further and include the rest of his piano music in this set.
Mozart, who composed 21 piano concerti, can be regarded as the “inventor” of the popular piano concerto. Although J.S. Bach and his son had written numerous concerti for harpsichord or fortepiano and orchestra before him, Mozart’s enormous input to the genre is mostly due to his concerti being regarded as ‘popular music’ by his contemporaries: to be enjoyed and quickly replaced by newer works. For this series on four DVDs, the most influential, the most artistically challenging and the most popular piano concerti have been selected to be performed by the best Mozart interpreters of our time. Volume I features pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Homero Francesch each performing a concerto representing a different stage in Mozart's life. The performances on this DVD were shot in highly attractive baroque venues – at the Mozarteum, Salzburg, in Hampton Court Palace, London and in the Christian-Zais-Saal, Wiesbaden – capturing the atmosphere of a performance in Mozart’s lifetime.
Debussy's Études are really the only set that deserves to be put beside Chopin's. What makes them so special? Like his, they are truly "practice pieces," systematically exploring various aspects of keyboard technique. But at the same time, they are poetic works of art, full of fantasy, charm, and musical invention. Uchida's recording is almost universally regarded as the finest version of these works to appear in modern times. Her playing combines effortless virtuosity with pianistic precision, keeping the music's artistic and pedagogical tendencies in a state of exquisite tension. This disc also established Uchida's claim to be recognized as one of the most interesting and talented pianists now active. You need to hear it.
Dame Mitsuko Uchida, universally acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost Schumann interpreters, follows her last album of the composer’s music (Davidsbündlertänze and Fantasie in C) with another sublime Schumann programme. Uchida’s latest Decca recording brings together the romantic fire and intensity of the Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor Op. 22 with two remarkable works from Schumann’s final years, Waldszenen and the Gesänge der Frühe.