A striking moment occurs early in K456: the unearthly lunge of a repeated figure. It shows the sophistication of the Cleveland strings and demonstrates how, in directing them herself, Mitsuko Uchida draws out Mozart's originality . . . fascinating. The central Andante of K456 spins a wondrous web of endlessly sustained lyricism, held aloft by Uchida's precisely graded lines: truly miraculous playing. Here, and in the Figaro-like Allegretto of K459, the Cleveland wind are superbly evocative of Mozart's night-time vision.
. . . [these are] readings that have all the intelligence and refinement that audiences have come to expect of this great Mozartian. There is a real sense of a stimulating conversation between soloist and orchestra . . . gracefully played.
One of the greatest pianists of our time returns to two marvellous Mozart concertos . . . As should be expected, Uchida brings grace and flair to her performance. The Cleveland Orchestra too, with which Uchida has a truly tangible rapport, provide superbly subtle support.
What a relief . . . to find lightness and elegance twinkling away in Mitsuko Uchida's latest Mozart disc . . . Directing piano concertos Nos 18 and 19 from the keyboard, she keeps cool even when harmonies and rhythms take their turn for the strange during No 18's finale . . . for her sparkling fingerwork and the clear recording I give much thanks.
Dame Mitsuko has recorded all this stuff before, but I find a greater concentration in this new cycle, simply because she is a more mature artist. Plus, there's the extra discipline of having to direct the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as play, resulting in more intense music-making.
. . . sparkling accounts of two of the composer's loveliest contributions to the genre . . . the truly gratifying aspect of these performances of the 18th and 19th Concerti -- one that is obvious from the first bar of the recording -- is the freshness of Ms. Uchida's interpretations. As in her celebrated performances of Schubert's piano music, she seeks the impetus for her recreations of the unique architecture of Mozart's Concerti in the music itself . . . DECCA's production values provide a recording in which every detail of Ms. Uchida's interpretations can be enjoyed in clear, naturally-balanced sound that never betrays the 'live' circumstances of the recording. These performances are . . . the culminations of new exchanges between one of the greatest composers and one of the most distinguished exponents of his music. The controlled fluidity of Ms. Uchida's manner as both pianist and conductor coalesces impeccably with the playing of The Cleveland Orchestra . . . the Orchestra personnel respond to Ms. Uchida's direction with suppleness of phrasing that dovetails flawlessly with both her comprehensive conceptions of the scores and the distinctive subtleties of her pianism . . . the strings offer slender but full-bodied tone that nods to 21st-Century notions of period-appropriate playing without sacrificing the weight of sound that has served the Orchestra so well in Romantic works. Principal flautist Joshua Smith . . . performs the flute parts in both Concerti with the commands of breath and rounded tone of the best bel canto singers, his awesomely reliable intonation put to radiant use in the solo flute line in the Andante movement of the B-flat Major Concerto. The eloquence of his playing is equaled by the oboes, bassoons, and horns, and the Clevelanders again prove themselves to be among the world's finest orchestras . . . these performances reaffirm that she is among the most prescient Mozarteans of her generation.
. . . [the Cleveland Orchestra's characteristically dry, agile string work] fits Uchida's aims very nicely. Her world of grace, subtle phrasing, and uncannily precise trills and ornaments is not so different from what her established fans will be used to, but the intricate, lively dialogue she forges with the orchestra is something new. "The Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K. 456", with all the little humorous fillips in the orchestra that seem to be forgotten only to sneak back into the piano part later, is magical . . . [Mozart 19]: there are many good details, and the madcap fun of the finale comes through. A must for Uchida fans, and a strong pair of Mozart concertos for everyone else.
Serving as both conductor and soloist, Uchida once again delivers cohesive, superbly refined performances. Sensitivity, wit and close communication with the orchestra are all hallmarks, reminders of what makes this Mozart project so special.
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 . . . Uchida surmounts the challenges with insouciant ease at every turn, enhancing the lilt and momentum of the performance . . . 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.
. . . this is Mozart of extraordinary intensity, as you might expect from Dame Mitsuko. The latest instalment, in which she directs The Cleveland Orchestra from the keyboard, pairs two delectable concertos . . . The guileless beginning of the B flat Concerto, K456, gives little hint of the extraordinary depths that are to be explored, most notably in the searing G minor variation-form slow movement. This is predictably rapt in Uchida's hands . . . Mozart has been a constant throughout Uchida's career but increasingly palpable is an otherworldly quality to her playing, an aspect that radiates out to her fellow players and to us, the audience . . . In the Allegretto central movement of the F major, too, Uchida is very compelling, imbuing the piano's glorious lines with a haze of melancholy . . . The finale is ravishingly brought off, the repartee between piano and orchestra in the final bars delightful in its sense of playful affirmation.
. . . [Uchida] directs the superbly subtle Cleveland Orchestra . . . [this release] brings all the sparkle and exquisite sensitivity we've come to expect from this pairing.
These are thoughtful and radiant performances of two beloved works.
. . . excellent recorded sound that ensures a perfect balance between piano and orchestra . . . [under Uchida's direction the Cleveland Orchestra] follows her exactly. Uchida can accompany, too. She is equally alert to its playing as she is to her own. It makes for some wonderful interactions. The dialogue between the delicate piano and a boisterous orchestra in the first movement of Concerto No. 19 is particularly enjoyable . . . detailed listening does reveal Uchida's personality . . . I appreciate Uchida's decision to mark her entrance as an important and dramatic event. Though Uchida enjoys using the weight of the piano for thundering entrances, she never overdoes it: The forte dynamic is a color used sparingly. Her heavy bass chords in the finale of No. 18 are threatening precisely because they are heard against sprinklings in the piano's upper register. These glimpses of Uchida's personality make this recording a worthwhile purchase . . .
The Piano Concerto #19 opens the disc, and is given a wonderful reading. The whole work seems to fly by, and seems to be an unbroken musical arch . . . [Uchida] rips into the short cadenzas on this disc with relish and delight, while elsewhere her customary elegance and poise serves this music very well . . . there is so much to admire here that I feel any serious collector should hear what Uchida can do with this music flying solo.