Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mitsuko Uchida at Strathmore

Had my first chance to hear Mitsuko Uchida live last night at Strathmore in a deeply affecting performance of Mozart and Schumann.

To grasp for a word, there is something so internal about this playing. One feels as though there is no gesture, no effect designed solely to appeal to the listener in the concert hall. Not that speaking to the audience is a bad thing, of course, but I think wrapping your head around her approach means understanding how everything she does is to serve an internal emotional logic in the music.

Accordingly, the opening of the Mozart A Minor Sonata was neurotic, frantic, desperate. The forward momentum, save for those blessed, haunting echoes in the main theme, nearly tripped over itself, devolving into masses of clotted chords in the denser sections. But of course this frenzy resolved into the Andante, and some of the most enlightening Mozart I have heard in a long, long time. Uchida shies away from Mozart as a deliciously balanced, finely humming machine--instead she seeks a clarity of statement almost embarrassing in its immediacy.

In her Davidbundlertanze, it was easy to muse on how this reading must get very close to how Schumann sought to truly portray the inner life of the heart and mind, each miniature singing with completely authentic ecstasy, melancholy, what have you. Though at times one grew restless for perhaps more structure to guide things overall.

And then after the break, the Fantasy in C Major. I love this piece so dearly, and to hear it played with an honesty and conviction that never left one feeling something had been compromised or left to expedience was just...really, really awesome. The third movement was especially fine--the opening sequence, earthbound, circling around itself, unable to to find any light, then suddenly and completely disarmed by a theme of raw naked longing, utterly incapable of being anything but itself. I think there may have been some note slips in the nastier sections (which were still exhilarating), but these mattered not at all to the overall impression.

Surely spent from such an evening, the sole encore was simple, purifying Bach.

P.S. Charles Downey's WaPo review here...

P.P.S. What was up with the riff-raff in the grand tier the other night? The parody level extent of inappropriate coughing/candy unwrapping/KLEENEX UNWRAPPING/whispering would have been hilarious if it hadn't been so frigging annoying. It was like date night at the Met but with adults who should know better. Let's get it together, people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your comments on Uchida. I have heard her a few times, and I always come away with new insights into the works.

Last time I heard her was at the Barbican. My parents and I were in London and we impusively bought tickets to hear her the night we arrived. Note to self - don't go to the pub before a concert when you are sleep-deprived. Nonetheless, she kept us riveted in her Mozart recital!

I am jealous of you for hearing such a wonderful program. I have struggled to play the Mozart a minor sonata before - it is an amazing piece. The slow movement is one of his best. (The "B" section has some great dissonances!)

I recently heard the Schumann Phantasie with Andras Schiff, who performs Schumann's original ending for the 3rd movement, where Schumann recapitulated a theme from the 1st movement (which in turn comes from Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte.)

Charles Rosen, in the afterward of his book on The Classical Style, has a great epilogue on the Phantasie, as a way to get the reader primed for his book The Romantic Generation.

Thanks for blogging. I miss your New York opera reviews, but I am thrilled to get your insights on music in general.