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23.4.10

Uchida's Forte, Piano Playing

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Read my review published today in the Washington Post:

Charles T. Downey, Mitsuko Uchida at the Music Center at Strathmore
Washington Post, April 23, 2010

On Wednesday night, devotees of Mitsuko Uchida filled the Music Center at Strathmore. The technical mastery of the Japanese-born pianist, now in her 60s, does not necessarily inspire awe in the listener, although there is plenty of daring virtuosity left in her agile fingers. No, what people came to hear was her way of turning a phrase. She gave carefully measured weight to each note, evoking again and again sounds as delightful and delicate as a wildflower, small daubs of bright color on tiny petals, like minute lines carved with painstaking care into glass.

Uchida performed pieces by two of her favorite composers, Mozart and Schumann, and one had the sense that in the late phase of her career she is becoming even more of a specialist. Indeed, her last recital here, in 2005 (also presented by Washington Performing Arts Society) was an all-Mozart program, and her latest recording, released on the Decca label, was made during live performances of a complete series of the Mozart piano concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra.

As she showed in the A Minor Sonata, K. 310, her Mozart uses the full power of the modern piano; it was refined but not afraid to indulge in dramatic contrasts. The first movement's main theme had an anxious, pointed quality, the left hand allowed to be obtrusive and heavy, while the second theme was serene and withdrawn, the whirring 16th notes smoothed by an ultra-legato touch. As in most of the evening, Uchida excelled in the slow movement, taking utmost care with the shape and articulation of every line. [Continue reading]
Mitsuko Uchida, piano
Washington Performing Arts Society
Music Center at Strathmore

Mozart, Piano Sonata in A Minor, K. 310
Schumann, Davidsbündlertänze, op. 6 | Fantasy in C Major, op. 17
Bach, French Suite No. 5 (G major, BWV 816)

OTHER THOUGHTS:
Zachary Lewis, Mitsuko Uchida and Cleveland Orchestra craft more Mozart for the ages (Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 16)
Alex Baker, Mitsuko Uchida at Strathmore (Wellsung, April 22)

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