tue 25/06/2024

Mitsuko Uchida, RFH review - Schubert from rough to heavenly | reviews, news & interviews

Mitsuko Uchida, RFH review - Schubert from rough to heavenly

Mitsuko Uchida, RFH review - Schubert from rough to heavenly

Personality papers over some technical flaws on the way to a sublime G major Sonata

Uchida - towards the timeless in SchubertGeoffroy Schied

When you've found your living ideal for Schubert's sonatas - Elisabeth Leonskaja, surely - it can be a challenge to stay open-minded and welcome another take on the profundities.

Mitsuko Uchida didn't make it easy for herself or us at the start by plunging into the technical challenges of the fierce C minor Sonata, first in the miraculous final trilogy; nor did she hint more than fleetingly at the sublime to come. But come it did, in a journey to the plains of heaven intensively walked in the hypnotic G major masterpiece, D894, with Uchida's unique personality defining the route.

She doesn't shy away from the rough, even at the risk of making the Steinway sound dry, even heavy, with sparing use of the sustaining pedal, and in that opener it seemed in a way admirable that there wasn't much space for the transcendental - not, at least, in the first movement's second subject, though the ever more subtle probings of the minor shifts in the great Adagio brought us closer to the infinite. Wrong notes and the occasional missed articulation in the tougher outbursts mattered less towards the start than in the tarantella finale; welcome as her spacing might earlier have been, there should be no tempo switches here as the dance of death hurtles over onwards. And at other times it was too precipitate for comfort, rushed rather than intense.

Something of the same happened in the more genial dance-finale of the A major Sonata, D664. I'd also have preferred a slightly more spacious approach to its opening theme, surely the happiest in all Schubert. But there was a real gamechanger here in the quietly persistent chords in the Andante; their seeming simplicity can be deceptive, and Uchida calmly got under their skin from the start.

Only one of the finest imaginations in the musical world could have opted for the Schoenberg encoreThey served here to herald the unbroken zen-like calm of D894's G major exposition. You could tell from the instant poise with which Uchida rocked it, not to sleep but to instil in us a profound wakefulness, that she would have time for the repeat; the return to G major both here and in the recap brought a deep sense of homecoming. Richter may have taken over half an hour in this movement - I wasn't sitting there looking at my watch last night, though I imagine it was a good deal less - but Uchida conveyed something of the same eternity here.

This "great" G major lets its turbulence erupt at the heart of the apparent peace - in the first-movement development, in the outbursts that temporarily demolish the nonchalance of the Andante. They caused Uchida a touch of the hit-and-miss problems that had beset the C minor work, but she threaded them convincingly into the big picture. How much more so the ethereal quality of the so-called Menuetto's Trio, which struck the listener here as Schubert's most miraculous. And the bucolic approach to the chordal style which links the finale to the sonata's calmer beginnings was handled with more of that essential timelessness which was Uchida's great gift in a thoughtful sequence.

Could there be an encore after that? Less than a minute's worth, as it turned out, but another window on eternity: Second Viennese School this time, the second of Schoenberg's Op. 19 epigrams, its faltering tonal heartbeats just about holding against stealthy attacks around them. Only one of the finest imaginations in the musical world could have opted for that. And it's good to see she has such a young following, sitting on the stage and very much in evidence at her CD signing after the recital.

Richter may have taken over half an hour in the G major Sonata's first movement, but Uchida conveyed something of the same eternity


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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