Mitsuko Uchida – review

Royal Festival Hall, London

Ferocious and frantic, Schumann's G minor Sonata Op 22 is a real showpiece, even if – like the other two works by the composer in Mitsuko Uchida's latest recital programme – it doesn't crop up too regularly in the concert hall. Uchida opened the second half with it, on the attack like a women possessed, never giving the first movement the opportunity to pause for breath, finding the briefest of havens in the tranquillity of the slow movement before ratcheting up the excitement once again through the scherzo and into the finale.

Done and dusted in 20 minutes, it was thrillingly all of a piece, a sustained burst of pianistic energy that would have been the natural climax of most recitals. Here, though, it was followed with very late Schumann, the strange, rather unworldly Gesänge der Frühe, to which Uchida gave a touching melancholy, as if each piece were haltingly remembering its musical grammar as it went along.

If both works, and the exquisitely poised slow movement of Mozart's C major Piano Sonata K330 that provided the encore, showed Uchida at her imaginative, poetic best, she had taken most of the first half of the evening to find that level. She began with a pair of Preludes and Fugues from Bach's Well‑Tempered Clavier: the C major and F sharp minor works from the second book, both delivered in a surprisingly mannered, slightly brusque way, with some rather self‑conscious pauses for emphasis. Then she moved on to the six pieces of Schoenberg's Op 19. The contrast between those aphoristically compressed miniatures, each vividly etched, and the more diffuse characterisation of the nine pieces that make up Schumann's Waldszenen was nicely done, though even in that first Schumann work there were unsettled moments, and those weren't really blown away until the sonata after the interval.

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Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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