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CD Review

Wolfgang Mozart

  • Piano Concerto #23 in A Major, K. 488
  • Piano Concerto #24 in C minor, K. 491
Mitsuko Uchida, piano
Cleveland Orchestra/Mitsuko Uchida
Decca Classics 4781524
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Mitsuko Uchida has always been a very fine Mozart pianist, but until recently her solo work generally earned more praise than her concerto collaborations. The reason for this is simple enough to explain; her erstwhile partner Jeffrey Tate was a bore. The first of (so far) four discs of concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra finds Uchida's unquestionable authority in this music undimmed by age, and with far more sympathetic orchestral partners.

Perhaps the opening of K. 488 isn't as sharply etched as we've come to expect today, but the orchestra clearly enjoys working with Uchida. Of all the major American orchestras, this is the one most able to create a chamber music feel in the way these players make music. This pays enormous dividends in the wholly natural exchanges between pianist and ensemble. The slow movement of the same concerto is as fine as any I've heard; the woodwinds are exceptional and the strings are warm but also highly alert. In K. 491, there's plenty of drama and depth, but nothing ever turns heavy. Indeed, the clarity of the instrumental accompaniment is a joy throughout the disc.

What impresses most about this program and the three discs that have followed is the way in which the pianist embraces her dual role. Uchida isn't a renowned conductor, but she's clearly able to get inside this music. Mozart's piano concertos seldom work as a complete set because of the varied moods and changing musical demands that the composer brought to the canon as he matured. I don't know if this team has more Mozart in the works, but there is no orchestra I'd rather see this project continue with. Less steely than Brendel, less ponderous than Barenboim, and better recorded than Haskil, this disc will please anyone who admires these performers.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman