Mitsuko Uchida at the Royal Festival Hall tonight.
Nice to have Mitsuko Uchida back again after having to cancel her recital last April due to a recurring health problem. A very full hall showed with what esteem this great artist is held .
Beginning with the little “Sonata facile” by Mozart in C K.545 she immediately showed all the exquisite musicianship for which she is renowned. Played with beautiful almost music box tone and shaped in a way that allowed the music to speak in a totally simple and immediate way.
It was Schnabel who declared Mozart too easy for children but too difficult for adults but Mitsuko found the ideal path between simplicity and her ability to imbue the seemingly childlike melodies with such meaning as a singer would do in the sublime perfection of Mozart operas. Her exquisite sense of balance allowed the pure beauty of the slow movement to sing out and totally captivate her audience.The last movement was thrown off with a charm and childlike simplicity that was disarming.
Kreisleriana that followed was played with all the passion and colours that these multifaceted fantasies require. The first one shaped almost like waves of sound but unlike Trifonov the other day held together and given a great sense of line and direction .The beautiful middle section was allowed to sing in a simple way with a subtle sense of rubato one was not even aware of .
The second and fourth,of course ,were just made for an artist of this stature and they received some beautifully shaped real legato playing .The fifth instead of sounding like an etude as it can in lesser hands was played as great blocks of sound erupting with great rhythmic impetus .The final fantasy was played with an almost feline grace that I would have preferred (as Trifonov showed us the other day ) more attention to the deep syncopated bass notes which gave a much more meaningful structure to this rather elusive ending.However a notable performance of a very problematic piece that can all too often seem a series of Fantasies instead of a whole .
After the interval just one work of Schumann:the great C major Fantasie dedicated to Liszt (Liszt in return dedicated his B minor Sonata to Schumann) Here it was unfortunately obvious the muscular problems that have obviously bewitched this great artist. The sense of balance was lost in her attempt to find larger sonorities.
Exaggeratedly distorted climaxes and drawn out ritardandi led to a rather uneven performance . Could it be that this very generous and sincere artist in not wanting to let her public down again took on a too long and arduous a programme. The second movement strangely was the most successful musically although even here there was too much pedal and rather muddy splashing that one would not have normally expected. The great climaxes in the final movement – a great outpouring of love for Clara – Schumann’s future wife- sounded very angular and laboured.The final chords were almost inaudible as were the final chords in the first movement. A great artist in difficulty who had given her best in the first half and the very appreciative audience greeted even this Fantasy with the warmth and generosity with which Mitsuko has always shared her music making.
Flowers and an ovation for this much loved artist brought her back with a page of music in her hand that she placed in the piano and did not even glance at. She proceeded to offer as an encore an atonal piece of nonsense that consisted of a very slow almost inaudible downward scale in which every so often a rocket would explode. Mercifully short and presented like a naughty girl teasing her audience we much look forward to hearing her again when she is full recovered .