Her integrity is absolute . . . Her energy level is astonishing . . . But most of all, the passion for music that she exudes from her every pore is an inspiration and a lesson for the rest of us. However much she may have achieved, however wonderfully she may have played yesterday, her desire to come even closer today to the music that she loves -- and to share the results with the world at large -- is palpable.
Her interpretive voice, of course, is uniquely her own, a thing of beauty and shy caution merging with the orchestra and the recording team in a marriage, like Figaro¿s, that places fun before responsibility. Throughout, Uchida . . . is aided by deeply engaged playing by the Orchestra, particularly the exquisite woodwinds (check out the major key variation in the slow movement of 24), which in turn are recorded with an analogue vinyl-like perfection of timbre and lack of strain that is rarely heard these days. The orchestra is situated in an ethereal space which expands, like space and time, as the music demands. It sounds fabulous at any volume level, without ever a hint of sonic whine. In addition to having a wonderfully free, easy and entirely authentic sense of filling in the countless empty passages and linking devices that Mozart leaves to the pianist¿s discretion, Uchida¿s own cadenza in the first movement of 24 blossoms into a grand, mesmerizing, harmonically drifting improvisation before settling in at the end with the assurance of sensual satisfaction.
Now, with the magnificent Cleveland players, she delights in her double role with flexible, unhurried tempi, daring cadenzas and breathtaking sensitivity. But there's never a shortage of fire or vitality . . . performances are first class and the woodwind interjections, especially in the wistful adagio of K488, rewardingly bold and fruity.
Admirers of Uchida's fabulously fluent Mozart playing will know what to expect from these accounts; every phrase is elegantly tooled, every texture perfectly weighted. The Cleveland Orchestra is currently one of the finest in the world, and it is fascinating to hear it scaling down its usually opulent sound to the almost chamber-music transparency that Uchida obviously expects. Though the major climaxes still carry a real symphonic weight, it's in the more intimate dialogues, especially in the C minor concerto, where the woodwind writing plays such an important role, that Uchida's rapport with the orchestra is so obvious . . . a rapturously beautiful disc.
These are two very familiar Mozart piano concertos . . . but with Uchida playing them these masterpieces feel newly minted. Delicate but never precious, she delights in the music¿s wide emotional palette, and finds nuances of feeling where some others prink prettily. The Cleveland Orchestra offers exquisite colouring and ensemble: the changing textures in No 23 are a special joy.
Did even the great Clara Haskil play Mozart¿s piano music as wonderfully, as completely -- with intelligence and instinct perfectly fused -- as Mitsuko Uchida? . . . The orchestra plays beautifully, she plays beautifully . . .
Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra sound as one.
. . . new thoughts as illuminating as those offered here by Mitsuko Uchida will always be welcome . . . These are intensely thoughtful and refined accounts that reward dedicated listening . . . Uchida is fastidiously careful never to stray outside the boundaries of classical restraint . . . The pianist¿s first entry in the C minor Concerto (placed first on the disc) is exquisite: a supremely poised oasis of absolute calm, yet bristling with tension that foreshadows the drama to come . . . its gentle drive is firm and inexorable. Although the tempo here and in the finale is measured, the voltage in both is powerfully high. Uchida¿s take on the Larghetto is contemplative rather than effortlessly simple, reflecting the vast depth beneath Mozart¿s uncomplicated surface; her subtle ornamentation in repeated passages is nicely stylish (as is her own cadenza in first- movement cadenza). The Cleveland Orchestra musicians have Mozart in their blood, and Uchida¿s special ¿long-standing relationship¿ with them is plainly evident . . . The Cleveland woodwinds are especially vivid, making the contrapuntal complexities in the turbulent first-movement development crystal-clear . . . The glorious sunshine of the A major¿s Concerto first movement is tempered with autumnal clouds, reflective rather than carefree. The Adagio, Mozart at his most poignant, penetrates straight to the soul with clean textures and eloquent directness . . . This release is essential listening for devotees of these wonderful, multi-faceted works.
. . . she has lost none of her golden touch. Indeed the beauty and range of her pianism have only deepened. As an instrumentalist she may have peers; she has no superiors . . . Both of the present performances are replete with the usual Uchidian virtues: a Utopian sense of balance, impeccable stylishness, textural translucency, unfailingly natural melodic inflection, never sullied by excessive accentuation, and a keen but never overstated awareness of Mozartian dialogue at every level . . . The Cleveland Orchestra, which she directs from the keyboard, is in excellent form throughout and the disc as a whole can be recommended very warmly indeed.
The Cleveland players are alive to her every inflection -- and "alive" is the watchword as Uchida meets Mozart's mood-switches with agile intensity . . . readings of the greatest poetic poise, empathy and refinement . . . here is sublime Mozart-playing . . . [In K. 491] Uchida conveys an ineffable sadness with sudden withdrawals of such subtlety that all the shades of autumn seem with us, though those shafts of light that can illuminate even Mozart's darkest moments. Her own first-movement cadenza is brilliantly apt . . . everything is natural as it is revelatory. When have you heard F sharp minor Siciliano more gently or lovingly confided, or the opera buffa finale more joyfully spun off? Lines are discreetly decorated and the Cleveland Orchestra are entirely at one with their inspired soloist. Balance and sound are ideal and even a few bars will convince you that you are listening to one of the truly great artists of our time.
Mitsuko Uchida¿s Mozart playing here is stunningly sensitive, crystalline, and true. These two concertos have been over-recorded, but this soloist and this great orchestra prove there is still more to say.
. . . she conveys, to a degree unmatched in my experience, a sense of sorrow, an almost harrowing sadness, underlining the tragedy of the work without vitiating its drama. This she does with a probing subtlety that defies concise description and sets this interpretation apart from any other known to me.
This intimate musical understanding continues in the Romance, where Uchida plays with grace and simplicity at the beginning, but gives a vivid account of the movement's central squalls before calm is restored . . . an excellent recording.
Directing from the piano, Uchida's long and successful relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra is heard at its finest.