Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mitsuko Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra Mozart Piano Concertos 23 and 24 2009

It's Mother's Day, and I get to make dinner for three of my favorite mothers: my beautiful wife, my charming mother-in-law, and our dear friend Susan. You might be doing the same, and wondering what to put on the stereo for dinner. Easy one. Mozart.

As I mentioned before, my wife and I attended a five-year cycle of Mozart's piano concertos played and conducted from the piano by Ms. Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra. Two years ago the cycle began repeating, and in December of 2008, this live recording was made. I was there. Aren't I cool.

First, the orchestra. Since the arrival of Franz Welser-Most, the Cleveland Orchestra has been an amazing ensemble to hear playing Mozart. Welser-Most takes a serene approach to Mozart, emphasizing delicacy and cohesion over emotional grandeur. Ms. Uchida, on the other hand, approaches Mozart very emotionally, and the balance achieved by the two working together is quite special.

Some reviewers over at Amazon feel that little is added to Uchida's previous reading of this material with Jeffrey Tate and the English Chamber Orchestra, and that is some fine Mozart. But this is a more subtle, delicate reading than Tate's, and the music is lush without being melodramatic. I own and enjoy the Uchida/Tate recordings, but this new version with Uchida conducting is a new way to hear this music, and these new recordings bring a unique perspective to the material. It is as much the Cleveland players' interpretation as it is Uchida's.

These two concertos are some of Mozart's finest and most popular works in the form. Uchida gives a breathtaking performance, and the recording is particularly well executed. Severance Hall is a magnificent place with killer acoustics, and the recording is nicely balanced between the piano and orchestra.

They were recording again when we saw Ms. Uchida just this last April, so maybe we are seeing the beginnings of a new complete cycle. Listen to a very talented pianist's take on Mozart. I think you'll like it.

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