Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 18 & 19

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COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 18 & 19
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 18 & 19
PERFORMER: Mitsuko Uchida (piano); The Cleveland Orchestra

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One of the most intriguing things about Dame Mitsuko Uchida’s Mozart is her capacity to conjure up a radiant 18th-century aesthetic without any of the accoutrements of the early music movement. She has never begun to imitate, or emulate, the sound of a fortepiano – indeed she has always basked in, while never misusing, the full capabilities of the modern concert grand. Yet her textures are as light and clear as one could wish for.

There is a pearly sheen to her tone and an elegance to her articulation that evokes the operatic character of Mozart’s Concertos. Dialogue, flirtations and diverting challenges abound in the music. Accompaniments, whether orchestral or pianistic, are never ‘mere’ accompaniments. Rather, they provide a subtle commentary on the conversations taking place above them. For many pianists, the often repetitious figur-ations of the Alberti bass can prove deadly. Uchida surmounts the challenges with insouciant ease at every turn, enhancing the lilt and momentum of the performance.

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Her characterisation and development of themes, whether in the orchestra or on the piano, are hardly less subtle; her playing and conducting temper exuberance with an impeccable and pervasive sense of balance and proportion. Some may find Uchida’s tempos in both finales a trifle reserved, but with such style, such probing artistry as this, who’s to complain? Jeremy Siepmann