A Most Unusual Mozart Collaboration

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The New York Sun

Mitsuko Uchida’s recital at Carnegie Hall on Thursday evening offered a strangely compelling antidote for overexposure to Mozart in this anniversary year. Some might classify Ms. Uchida’s approach as ethereal, poetic, and communicative; others would find it willful, tedious, and bizarre. One thing is certain, however: You’ve never heard an all-Mozart concert sound like this before.

Perhaps the fault lay in the program booklet. Carnegie Hall listed these pieces as “by Mozart,” when they were actually composed by Mozart-Uchida.

Choosing only works for solo piano from the composer’s last years, Ms. Uchida immediately began to reveal the results of her rather crabbed experimentation. The opening Fantasia in C minor, K. 475, was grafted onto the Sonata in C minor, K. 457. This is actually not an original Uchida idea, but it is still tinkering.

The crowd fought back, using applause to prevent the recitalist from making a seamless transition. In fact, Ms. Uchida had a difficult time all evening with this audience. Latecomers, early exiting patrons, cell-phone users, and producers of phlegm dogged her attempt to establish a contemplative quietude.

In the first half, Ms. Uchida’s idio syncratic phrase lengths and odd pauses created essentially new music out of old. Only her powerful performance of the Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, was immediately impressive. The deeply personal conception of the other pieces would require repeated hearings for an intelligent evaluation. Certainly, this presentation was unique.

After intermission, Ms. Uchida played two sonatas, the F major, K.533/494, and the D major, K. 576, more straightforwardly. This created instant disappointment, a self-imposed dearth of originality. We had to settle for reasonably well-executed mechanics. Only the endings of the two pieces were notable. In the first, Ms. Uchida concluded so quietly as to be almost inaudible, a delicately delicious finish that reminded me of those Viennese chocolates with the picture of Wolfgang on the wrapper. However, ending in exactly the same manner in the final sonata just seemed precious.


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