Mitsuko Uchida

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Biography

Born: December 20, 1948; Tokyo, Japan  
Mitsuko Uchida, a thoughtful and iconoclastic pianist, was born in Tokyo in 1948. She began her studies in piano during childhood. Her parents, who were diplomats, moved to Austria when Uchida was 12, and she enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music. Even at this young age, Uchida rebelled against the conventional wisdom her teachers tried to impart. She wished to exercise her own judgment in performance, and the Academy did not want to let her. Read more Judges at competitions, on the other hand, liked her judgment, giving her the second prize at the Beethoven Competition in 1968 and another second prize at the prestigous Chopin Competition in 1970. Uchida, however, was dissatisfied with her playing and retired from the competition circuit. Her career built up mostly through word of mouth during the 1970s. During the 1980s, Uchida built up a particular reputation as a Mozart interpreter -- ironic for someone who did not like Mozart's music when studying it at the Vienna Academy. She received notice for outstanding performances of the Mozart sonatas in London and Tokyo in 1982, and recorded a universally acclaimed set of the complete sonatas for Philips. Uchida also appeared as soloist and conductor with the English Chamber Orchestra in a cycle of the complete Mozart concerti during 1985-1986. She eventually recorded these for Philips as well, with the ECO conducted by Jeffery Tate. Uchida, never one to rest on her laurels, moved into different repertoire during the 1990s, winning particular notice for her Debussy and Schubert solo piano recordings and her Beethoven concerti. She has also been a champion of the music of Schoenberg, Bartók and Berg, and often seeks to draw parallels between standard repertoire works and these modern masters. Like Martha Argerich, to whom she is sometimes compared, Uchida does not record or concertize prolifically (although she does both more than Argerich). Uchida does not like to be pigeonholed, and often strikes out on her own path; for example, she and a piano technician spent two years transforming a piano into something she felt she could use for Schubert. Uchida then insisted that Philips put the technician's name on the back of the CD -- an unusual gesture. While Uchida's interpretations generally sound fresh and spontaneous, these characteristics arise from reasoned and deliberate musical choices. Far from prolific, she is always thought-provoking. Uchida currently resides in London. Read less

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