Tchaikovsky: Piano Sonata in G, Op. 37,

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Piano Sonata in G, Op. 37,
PERFORMER: Ayako Uehara (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57719 2
Ayako Uehara won the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 2002, the first woman and the first Japanese artist to claim this accolade. This broad cross-section of Tchaikovsky’s rarely heard solo piano music is, appropriately, her first recording, and it marks her out as a pianist of enormous promise. Her beautifully limpid tone, warm lyricism and refined delicacy all bring much pleasure, and in the two Op. 10 pieces, the Méditation and the two waltzes her seductive palette and tonal gloss are ravishing. Some may find her playing too prettified, perhaps at the expense of a bolder projection of the instrument’s capabilities. Her ‘Pas de deux’ from The Nutcracker (in Pletnev’s arrangement) is delightfully sensitive, even if it doesn’t have Pletnev’s blistering virtuosity and dynamic range (Philips). The G major Sonata – a hugely difficult work to bring off – is played with conviction, but the outer movements really need a more powerful sonority and taut muscularity. At times her playing is just a little studied, as if she’s learnt her lines to perfection but is afraid to really let herself go. She may not yet be the finished article but, make no mistake, she is tremendously gifted. Fortunately for her and for us, she has been given absolutely first-rate, gorgeous recorded sound. Tim Parry