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Mitsuko Uchida Thoughtful about Mozart

available at Amazon
Mozart, Piano Concertos 23/24, M. Uchida, Cleveland Orchestra

(released on September 8, 2009)
Decca 478 1524 | 59'49"

Online scores:
K. 488 | K. 491
Mitsuko Uchida is coming back to Washington for a recital of Mozart and Schumann later this month at Strathmore (April 21, 8 pm). Washington Performing Arts Society last brought Uchida here in 2005, for an all-Mozart program, but Ionarts has been known to travel to review her playing with the New York Philharmonic, twice. Now in her 60s, the Japanese-born, Austrian-trained pianist is still releasing fine recordings of one of her specialties, the music of Mozart, like her extraordinary set of Mozart violin sonatas with Mark Steinberg that received high praise around here a few years back. With her latest Mozart, Uchida returns to two of the piano concertos she recorded earlier in her career. Instead of the English Chamber Orchestra with conductor Jeffrey Tate, with whom she made one of the most lovely Mozart almost-complete cycles available, she has chosen to collaborate with the Cleveland Orchestra (actually for a series of performances), sans conductor. (She will play two different Mozart concertos with the orchestra the week before her recital here.) The tracks on the new disc are a mix from live performances recorded in December 2008.

Uchida plays her own cadenza in the first movement of the C minor concerto (no. 24), quite Beethovenian, almost Romantic, with lots of arpeggiations of fully diminished seventh chords. The woodwinds are impeccable in their role as a little banda (minus a minor blemish here and there, the risk of live recording), especially in the second movement, matched by fairly elaborate embellishments by Uchida, added just about any time that melodic material is repeated (in both concertos the seemingly skeletal piano part at times seems to call out for embellishment, especially in the slow movements). The third movement has a quiet, unhurried way of unfolding, with the orchestra mostly hushed and the solo lost in its own interior melancholy for much of the time. Uchida elects to take the first movement of the A major concerto (no. 23) on the slow side of Allegro, which adds to the overall impression that Uchida's present take on these concertos is less sprightly, more considered than her earlier performances with Tate and the ECO. The second movement is even more introspective, moving very slowly for an Andante marking, and here Uchida adds basically no ornamentation, leaving the texture ascetically barren. Even for someone who prefers fortepiano and period instruments for Mozart, this is good listening.

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