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Mitsuko Uchida is the rare pianist who started her career at a peak yet has still found room for continued improvement over the years. This fifth and final instalment of a CD series with Uchida leading the Cleveland Orchestra from the keyboard follows a distinguished Mozart concerto cycle from 30 years ago with the English Chamber Orchestra and Jeffrey Tate (originally released on the Philips label). The earlier set benefited from Tate’s spry, gremlin-like wit and the ECO’s pellucid, pristine sound textures. In her thirties, Uchida already showed a mature grasp of Mozartian style, structure, and phrasing. At times her playing was a bit winsome and self-consciously miniaturised, minor flaws no longer audible 30 years on. Her playing is now, if anything, even richer than before, with emotions more deeply expressed. It is the Clevelanders who sound somewhat over-deferential to the soloist.

To state the obvious, Mozart’s concertos in G major K453 and C major K503 benefit from the presence of a great Mozartian on the podium to govern such matters. Artists imbued with the Mozart idiom, including Murray Perahia (Sony 1914112), Richard Goode (Nonesuch 79608), Zoltán Kocsis (Philips 456577) and Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca 443727), have memorably recorded his concerti from the keyboard, but the presence of a conductor of the order of Sándor Végh, András Schiff’s recording partner (Decca 448140) can be revelatory.

So while Uchida’s achievement deserves a place of honour alongside Goode, Kocsis and Ashkenazy, other pianists on record who have benefited from great conductors in Mozart concerti inevitably pip her at the post.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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