Prom 66, Royal Albert Hall, review: Uchida's mastery of Schoenberg, Jurowski's of Shostakovich

This Prom opened with a spirited performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio overture and closed with a magnificent account of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 8

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Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto Opus 42 may be a difficult work to love, but as Julian Johnson’s programme essay pointed out it’s anything but a rejection of tradition. The phrasing and texture, and the dialogue between soloist and orchestra, implicitly hark back to Mozart, and that was how Mitsuko Uchida and the London Philharmonic under Vladimir Jurowski presented it.

Uchida has always split her allegiance between the first and second Vienna schools, and she played this delicately-inflected work with the ease she brings to Brahms. Her cadenzas were wonderfully poised, the second being at once virtuosic and pensive; her encore – which took the audience completely off-guard - was the second of Schoenberg’s gnomic Opus 19 pieces, fifty seconds of minimalist pointillisme.

This Prom had opened with a spirited performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio overture, and it closed with a magnificent account of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 8. The composer’s intention was ‘to use an artistic form of imagery to present a picture of the spiritual life of the human being stunned by the giant hammer of war.’ Jurowski ensured that this came over with enormous force, with the cor anglais solo in the first movement, the passacaglia in the third, and the final radiant C major chord serenely tempering the fury of the marches and cannonades.

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