Notes and Editorial Reviews
If Mitsuko Uchida’s latest foray into Schumann strikes certain listeners as micromanaged, italicized, and arch, it must be said that nearly everything she does has its basis in what the composer set down in his scores. Take, for example, Waldszenen’s first piece, Eintritt, where Uchida takes pains to differentiate slurs and staccatos. Many pianists play No. 2’s triple unison passages in the beginning too loudly, whereas Uchida’s relative understatement not only adheres to Schumann’s dynamic markings, but also makes an effective contrast to the louder, brasher repeated chords to come. In Jagdlied (No. 8) Uchida is one of the few pianists on disc to give a separate timbral
character to chords with sforzando markings and those with accents, rather than assigning these a generalized quality of loudness. However, the pianist’s ritards at phrase endings throughout No. 3 somewhat diffuses the conversational continuity of the right-hand canonic lines; I prefer Wilhelm Kempff’s simpler, more direct interpretation where the few pungent harmonic clashes speak for themselves, without any underlining on the pianist’s part.
The G minor sonata’s outer movements often can sound thick and foursquare, but Uchida’s flexible yet fastidiously detailed interpretations circumvent that tendency. Although her reserve in the Scherzo doesn’t match Argerich’s animation and kinetic abandon, Uchida’s steadier rhythms and more thoughtful scaling of dynamics hold your attention. To give one example, there is a quick crescendo in bar 20 leading into the opening theme’s reiteration. In order for that crescendo to “read”, so to speak, Uchida makes an unwritten diminuendo in the previous measure, which serves to intensify the crescendo’s dramatic effect.
Uchida’s expansive and sensitively shaded performances of Schumann’s late-period Gesänge der Frühe capture the music’s reflective lyricism, although I prefer the brisker fluidity and more three-dimensional linear textures that Andras Schiff and Alexander Lonquich bring to the second piece. But while many pianists put the final piece’s steadily escalating 16th notes in the foreground, Uchida does the opposite, and focuses on the sustained chords and long melody notes, almost as if she were playing the organ instead of the piano. Clearly Uchida has processed, refined, and thought about these three Schumann works to the point where she can communicate her conceptions exactly as she wishes, and that’s no small achievement.
-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Waldszenen, Op. 82 by Robert Schumann
Mitsuko Uchida (Piano)
Written: 1848-1849; Germany
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