MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 23 & 24 – Mitsuko Uchida, piano and conducting the Cleveland Orchestra – Decca

by | Aug 29, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 23 & 24 – Mitsuko Uchida, piano and conducting the Cleveland Orchestra – Decca 001327602, 59:40 ***** [Distrib. by Universal]:

Arriving just in time to combat the autumn blues, Mitsuko Uchida delivers performances of two of Mozart’s most well-known piano concertos (unusually, it’s 24 first then 23) that take their place with recordings by Mozartian legends Robert Casadesus and Edwin Fischer that seem to commune with the composer. Her interpretive voice, of course, is uniquely her own, a thing of beauty and shy caution merging with the orchestra and the recording team in a marriage, like Figaro’s, that places fun before responsibility.

Throughout, Uchida (who recorded a cycle in the 1980s for Philips Classics with Jeffrey Tate conducting the English Chamber Orchestra) is aided by deeply engaged playing by the Orchestra, particularly the exquisite woodwinds (check out the major key variation in the slow movement of 24), which in turn are recorded with an analogue vinyl-like perfection of timbre and lack of strain that is rarely heard these days. The orchestra is situated in an ethereal space which expands, like space and time, as the music demands. It sounds fabulous at any volume level, without ever a hint of sonic whine.

In addition to having a wonderfully free, easy and entirely authentic sense of filling in the countless empty passages and linking devices that Mozart leaves to the pianist’s discretion, Uchida’s own cadenza in the first movement of 24 blossoms into a grand, mesmerizing, harmonically drifting improvisation before settling in at the end with the assurance of sensual satisfaction.

I listened to this new release both at home on mid-size Spendors and during a round trip to Portland in Lexus’s GS450h hybrid in which I discovered that the optional Mark Levinson system is ideal for classical music. There is a simplicity to its operation that underscores the great quality and integrity of the gorgeous sounds it makes. Mileage on the sleek 4-door saloon wasn’t bad, either: 30 mpg and power that made truckers laugh as we went past. It handled nimbly when required, and made driving I-5 North and South a pleasure and often a delight.

Mozart himself would certainly have smiled at these performances. I hope it is the first in a series.

– Laurence Vittes

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