it smart: Mitsuko Uchida
Right by Amadeus
College Memorial Chapel, May 8
an easy way to present an all-Mozart program. He wrote such
a quantity and variety of accessible works that there·s
little challenge in choosing an attractive assortment. Had
pianist Mitsuko Uchida done so, I suspect many in the capacity
crowd at Union College·s Memorial Chapel last Monday
would have been disappointed.
not one to take the easy way, and her program reminded us
that Mozart·s music is not background music. It·s
something to be enjoyed through careful attention, and it
will take you on a rich emotional journey, filled with surprises,
when you surrender yourself to its complexity.
chose a program of later works, most with a quirky story attached.
Her opener, for instance, the Fantasia in C Minor, was written
to complement his recently written Sonata in C Minor, and
the two were first published together with the intention that
they should be performed as a single unit.
the first half of the concert was dominated with this sweeping
work, essentially a five-movement prelude (the Fantasia) to
the three-movement Sonata. It·s a dark piece, appropriate
to the key, foreshadowing Beethoven-esque dynamic contrasts
while still able to break into Mozart·s characteristic
grin. The music is elegant, but it·s breaking free
of the strictures of the dances from which these movements
As a Mozart
interpreter, Uchida runs to the Gieseking school, in which
phrasing is loose and an overall sense of gentleness provides
the baseline from which the more forceful dynamics emerge.
sonatas on the program·s second half also were late
works, by which time Mozart was defying many conventions·including
that of the big finish to a big movement. Uchida·s
touch is so deft that she imbued the penultimate chord in
those situations with a power that wasn·t merely about
volume, and then finished with a chord of such delicacy that
you·d swear she never even touched the keys.
time she closed the first half with the Adagio in B Minor,
it was clear that she has the Count Basie-like ability to
play the spaces between the notes and make them an equally
compelling part of the mixture. The Adagio is a strange,
mysterious piece that sets an otherworldly mood, and seduced
me into forgetting for a while that I was in a concert hall.
in F Major never got its own finale, so Mozart tacked on a
Rondo to make it a complete work; this and the Sonata in D
Major completed the concert. Uchida made a game of the
pauses in first sonata·s development section; the slow
movements were especially compelling, sung like arias that
combine accomplishment and wisps of regret.
you listen to this kind of music? We·ve had it in the
background of our lives for so long that a concert like this
is necessary to remind us what magic active listening provokes.
And if we can listen with ears attuned to the period·knowing
about sonata-allegro form, about key relationships, about
what to expect from a rondo·we·ll appreciate
all the more the delightful surprises packed into the works.
the audience came to worship at the Shrine of Uchida, whose
international reputation has won her those classical groupies;
some came to nap; but many were there for the music and were
appropriately carried away. (Although this audience showed
more skill in punctuating end-of-movement silences with their
eructations·and what·s with octogenarians and
their candy wrappers?)
tossed us a fast one with her first encore, one of Schoenberg·s
Six Little Pieces, Op. 19 (no. 2), which actually underscored
Schoenberg·s classical roots. Then, for those who hadn·t
fled, she gave us one more taste of Mozart, the opening of
his Sonata in C, a glorious way to end.