. . . there are many lovely things, especially in the "Davidsbündlertänze", where Uchida catches exactly the right balance between unbuttoned fantasy and a stricter classicism. She naturally inclines towards the more introspective side of Schumann rather than his ebullient, extrovert alter ego, and infuses the more lyrical parts of the cycle with warmth and expressive generosity, just as in the C major Fantasie it's her playing of the middle section of the first movement and of the slow finale that catches the ear . . . the overall impression is of supremely intelligent playing . . .
["Davidsbündlertänze"]: The quality she brings is the one they most need -- an overarching concentration that stops them splinting apart, while maintaining a sense of poetry and spontaneity. She is equally illuminating in the epic C major Fantasy . . . the music's Janus-faced personality is enmeshed in almost every bar, to thrilling effect in Uchida's magisterial performance, which exults in Schumann's temperamental extremes while also harmonizing them. On the composer's 200th anniversary Uchida has done him, and us, a great service.
[Uchida has] the intellectual and physical muscle to ride out the tempests when they come. The recording is warm and ample . . .
[Uchida realizes that the "Davidsbündlertänze"] are not dances at all, but character pieces depicting the opposing alter egos of Schumann's personality . . . Uchida captures the split personality without exaggerating the different moods and humours with which Schumann imparts his two characters. Her limpid touch and inwardness in the Eusebius pieces are of spellbinding beauty . . . she always hears the music in Schumann's bravura . . . [Her account of the great C major Fantasie] sits alongside some of the greatest committed to disc -- Schumann the poet and virtuoso evoked in perfect balance.
This seizes you by the scruff of the neck within seconds . . . [Uchida finds] a different colour for every one of the 18 pieces. The coda to No13 is the most astonishing example of pianistic virtuosity I¿ve heard in years . . . overall the CD is a marvel.
Mitsuko Uchida has total command of Schumann's sprawling "Davidsbündlertänze" and the imposing Fantasie . . . supremely well delivered by Uchida . . . Uchida's characterisations are impeccable.
Uchida's return to recording Schumann after 15 years has borne superb fruit: each of the "dances" in this masterpiece is brilliantly characterized, with the tug of war between its imaginary "authors" palpably physical . . .
. . . Uchida pays him the compliment of responding to the 18 miniatures that comprise Davidsbündlertänze with an intensity, rigour and gravitas that is almost Beethovenian in impact.
This is the playing of a real "master" musician who carries every iota of beauty, intelligence and subtlety through to to ultimate degree. Uchida lingers on melancholy moments of the "Davidsbündlertänze" and relishes its lighter ones, while her structural awareness also gently brings out the motifs that hold the whole thing together. The Fantasie is as genuinely passionate as I've ever heard it . . . The sound quality is superb . . . Among many excellent recordings of these works, Uchida's up there with the finest. She proves that virtuosity is just means to a musical end. Piano heaven.
. . . Uchida shows herself not only fully up to Schumann's immense demands technically, but she is also deeply sympathetic to the fierce dislocations in his personality, as they are expressed in both these works, but especially in "Davidsbündlertänze" . . . With a work as manifestly supreme as the Fantasy, op. 17, it is absurd to say that there is any one greatest account . . . but I don't think any of them . . . is superior. Uchida attacks it with tremendous vigour, but she is just as convincing the exquisite third movement as in the swirling and galumphing first and second. With such insight from her both on the piano and verbally, this makes a most appealing pair of discs.
. . . Uchida is uncannily attuned to Schumann's (very different) world, making you wonder why she hasn't offered us more before now . . . this has Gramophone Award-winner written all over it.
[Davidsbündlertänze]: . . . in this set of dances, pianist Mitsuko Uchida gives them an inner force and boldness that makes them seem especially vivid . . . this album stands out at as a unique tribute with a clear personal stamp. Uchida integrates the work's two contrasting voices ¿ the mercurial Florestan and the reflective Euseubius ¿ and its many modes into a seamless whole. After completing most of the series of diverse character sketches, with their notes of sweet sentimentality, boisterousness, urgency, willfulness and contemplation, she imbues the final two with a gravitas that is particularly gratifying. And she dazzles in the C minor fantasy, giving a blazing account of the material in the first movement while drawing out its melodic contours and constantly building suspense and intensity until its comparably subdued ending. The quirky ambling feel and sunny energy she imparts to the second stunningly contrast the depth of the third. In all, she plays the work to maximum emotional affect.
Elegant, intelligent, crystalline sonority, detail, and moderation are all apt words for her Schumann, plus a sense of musical narrative . . . She chooses not to employ the warm blanket of sound heard from many past Schumann pianists, but creates continuity by projecting the notes with a collective strength of purpose.
. . . she's also a gifted interpreter of Schumann, as this exquisite new disc reminds us. The 18 gems comprising the "Davidsbündlertänze" are ideally suited to her unique knacks for transparency and poetic expression. No doubts here which character is being portrayed. The great Fantasie, meanwhile, is an engrossing journey fueled by seemingly limitless animation.
. . . superbly engineered . . . Her own playing in Op. 17 is irreproachable.
The masterly pianist Mitsuko Uchida is widely acclaimed for the refinement and intelligence of her playing. Schumann brings out her fanciful and impetuous side, as is clear on a wonderful recording of two major Schumann works . . . Ms. Uchida captures the music's unbridled imagination. But at her core, since she is such an elegant and insightful musician, she also plays with an acute sensitivity to harmonic shadings and contrapuntal complexities and, when it is called for, uncanny textural clarity. This makes for an uncommon blend of rhapsodic freedom and revealing detail. The three-movement Fantasie is a homage to Beethoven and, despite its title, one of Schumann's most ingeniously structured works. Ms. Uchida conveys both the architectural and fantastical elements in her magisterial performance. The recording, a Decca Prestige Edition release, includes a bonus CD of Ms. Uchida discussing Schumann with the critic James Jolly. It is fun to hear her thoughts about how the piano music of Schumann (like that of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and others) reveals what kind of pianist he was.
This is certainly one of the most carefully delineated performances of this piece that I have heard . . . with almost hyper-intense clarity and beautifully characterized contrasts that Uchida invests in every bar. The piece is definitely undersold, but Uchida's non-marginalized restraint only serves to actually illumine more than we are used to, and in many ways it's like hearing it for the first time.
[Uchida]: . . . she has few peers in her chosen repertoire, mainly Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann . . . a splendidly balanced recital . . . Uchida has the formidable technique required for dispatching the many turbulent moments in the outer movements of the early sonata, but also all the poetry needed to make the more inward "Forest Scenes", especially the exquisite "Prophet Bird", sound beautifully finished. This album is sure a candidate for yet another award.
An extraordinary technical control allied with an unusually sensitive temperament lend her best interpretations a visionary refinement . . . Several movements in "Waldscenen" are exceptional: "Einsame Blumen" has the intimate tenderness of spiritual communion, "Freundliche Landschaft" flutters with a nimble grace . . . and in the gnomic tendrils of "Vogel als Prophet," perhaps the composer's strangest creation, Uchida imbues aphorism with otherworldly mystery . . . Uchida surprises by offering her most persuasive playing in the most extroverted music. Where other pianists can bog down trying to make sense of Schumann's uncharacteristic use of sonata form, Uchida uncovers the frenzied wildness at the core of this opus. The last movement, with its agitated tremolo octaves, flickers and roars like flame. Lyrical episodes emerge with halting beauty before the coda blazes to a close. Here, at the center of the recital, is playing that captures the essence of Schumann: a wild and unpredictable beauty.
. . . Mitsuko Uchida [erweist sich] auch in ihrer jüngsten Einspielung als hervorragende Schumann-Interpretin, die die auseinanderstrebenden Kräfte dieser Musik in ein Gleichgewicht zu bringen versteht, ohne sie zu nivellieren. Besonders glücklich ist ihr dies in den . . . "Davidsbündlertänzen" gelungen . . . innerhalb ihres scheinbar klassizistischen Gestaltungsansatzes charakterisiert sie die achtzehn Miniaturen so lebendig und mit so großer artikulatorischer und agogischer Finesse, dass ein differenzierteres Gesamtbild dieses Zyklus entsteht als unter den Händen vieler anderer Pianisten. Dabei kommen Mitsuko Uchidas pianistische Qualitäten ¿ etwa ihr warmes, rundes Legato und ihr transparentes Akkordspiel ¿ in den ungestümen, "Florestan" zugeschriebenen Sätzen ebenso gut zum Tragen wie in den lyrisch-verinnerlichten "Eusebius"-Nummern. Auch der groß dimensionierten C-Dur-Fantasie . . . bleibt die Pianistin kaum etwas in interpretatorischer Sorgfalt schuldig . . . [eine] subtil ausgehörte, spannungsvolle und in den virtuosen Zuspitzungen der ersten beiden Sätze auch beeindruckend treffsichere Wiedergabe . . .
. . . gegenüber dem emphatischen Zugriff der Japanerin, der die grenzsprengende Exzentrik der Schumannschen Formen- und Empfindungswelt zum Leben erweckt, muss jeder distanziertere Ansatz enttäuschen . . . hört man Uchidas Interpretation in ihrem staunenswerten Wandlungsreichtum, stellt sich unmittelbar der Eindruck ein, man habe es mit zwei Pianistinnen zu tun. Als Eusebius gelingen ihr gegen Ende im Walzer leiseste Töne von berückender Zartheit, die ganz nach Innenwelt und 'Seeligkeit' klingen . . . Indem Uchida das Diskurshafte der Musik betont, die eigenwilligen Kontraste der Stücke hervorhebt, gelingt ihr ein authentisch wirkender Interpretationsansatz . . . dem modernen Flügel entlockt sie oft eine satte, vollgriffige Klanglichkeit . . . Uchidas Spiel geht vollkommen in der romantischen Subjektivität auf, die sich ihre Strukturen selbst erschafft. Auf diese Weise wird auch das Hören der 'Fantasie' op. 17 in C-Dur wieder zur Herausforderung, weil Uchida sich nicht künstlich um Ordnung oder Übersicht bemüht, vielmehr einfach der Musik selbst in ihrer Unfertigkeit, ihrer Eigengesetzlichkeit, in ihrem Werden, folgt. Bei Uchida klingt Schumanns Musik wieder romantisch.
. . . [man hört] Uchidas Interpretation in ihrem staunenswerten Wandlungsreichtum, stellt sich unmittelbar der Eindruck ein, man habe es mit zwei Pianistinnen zu tun. Als Eusebius gelingen ihr gegen Ende im Walzer leiseste Töne von berückender Zartheit, die ganz nach Innenwelt und "Seeligkeit" klingen . . . Indem Uchida das Diskurshafte der Musik betont, die eigenwilligen Kontraste der Stücke hervorhebt, gelingt ihr ein authentisch wirkender Interpretationsansatz . . . dem modernen Flügel entlockt sie oft eine satte, vollgriffige Klanglichkeit . . . Bei Uchida klingt Schumanns Musik wieder romantisch.