Mitsuko Uchida, Royal Festival Hall, London

4.00

Reviewed by Edward Seckerson

Mitsuko Uchida loves to journey in her recitals; but it's the connections she makes on the way – intellectually, psychologically, emotionally – that throw up the most telling insights. Her signature Mozart is always a good place to start and in this instance the Rondo in A minor seemed literally to have been taken out of the air. The hushed melancholy of the theme, so deftly turned on graceful semiquavers, had nothing to do with fingers on keys or hammers on strings – rather, it levitated as if to suggest Mozart among the angels, and each return on this short journey brought renewed wonder and, more importantly, new departures.

Fast-forward, then, 160 years to a very different Vienna as Uchida made Viennese haiku of Webern's Variations, Op 27. One or two of them even sounded like shorthand Mozart, their cryptic poetry exquisitely rendered like sonic ephemera vibrating for that moment only.

Uchida had primed us more than we knew for the Beethoven which followed – Sonata in A, Op 101. How much richer and more mysterious its elemental colours now sounded, chords made cosmic by Uchida's infinitely subtle weighing and testing of them. This is a big piece and there was always a healthy awareness – respect, even – in her performance that the music could quite easily overwhelm and consume her. It did not: power without force was the overriding impression.

And Uchida's way with tension and release went on to enrich a quite magnificent Schumann's Fantasy in C. In a piece teetering between euphoria and contemplation, a clear understanding of the emotional narrative is critical. One felt that Uchida had taken us to that secret place in Schumann's troubled heart where feelings, like those expressed in the second idea of the first movement, were simply left hanging and unresolved. Just as the impassioned love song for Clara rashly and repeatedly swept all before it in the first movement, so the second movement march pointedly grew in confidence.

But more special still was the grave and inconsolable beauty of the third movement's "song without words". No words were necessary – the playing conveyed the deepest empathy. After which, the "non-encore" of a Schoenberg piano piece so tiny as to be almost non-existent, was like Uchida's way of saying: we've had sufficient.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works