This recital by Mitsuko Uchida was all the more eagerly anticipated for having being cancelled when the pianist injured her thumb more than a year ago. The notion of Uchida being prevented from playing seemed unthinkable, which heightened the appreciation of her unique and intense musicality in this programme of Schubert and Beethoven.
She began by making a connection between the two composers: the opening chord of Schubert's G major Sonata, D984, is almost identical to that of the soloist's epoch-making entry in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, and the aura Uchida created in St George's in those moments was reverential and serene. Throughout the sonata, she found the perfect balance between the intimacy and almost grandiloquent resonance of Schubert's utterances. The sense of innocence and tragic portent was realised with perfect control, and she found a natural logic in his outpouring of melody.
Most mesmerising was her way of matching tone colours and bringing a poised tension to passages of transition, so that the resolution of one idea would herald the beginning of the next. In Beethoven's massive Diabelli Variations, Op 120, which provided the single work of the second half, she showed her ability to seamlessly connect the variations. Beethoven's inventiveness and virtuosity was combined with a sense that he had given himself up to the power of music. Uchida unerringly captured the essence of each variation while fashioning the overarching structure of Beethoven's work. In some performances, the 32 Variations risk becoming tedious; here one would have been happy to hear Uchida continue to weave her magic.