Uchida is without doubt one of the century's finest interpreters of Mozart's piano sonatas. However, her performances of his piano concertos are another matter. They are certainly not bad. She brings her unique, introspective touch to the keyboard, and the English Chamber Orchestra plays with grace and charm. But Uchida's soft touch doesn't work as well in the extroverted setting of Mozart's concertos. She captures little of the humor and flair that make these works so special. And Jeffrey Tate's direction sounds lifeless or bland. The two musicians work well together, particularly in the famous middle movement of No.21. But these versions are lacking in forward thrust, in that sparkle you find in the great recordings. The opening of No.20 is supposed to growl and stir in a melancholic fashion. This version opens tamely and without any tension, or any anticipation of greater things to come. And when Uchida's piano finally enters, her touch is so soft, you feel like you need to turn the volume up. Only on the Beethoven cadenzas does she really heat up, but the contrast between those passages and the rest of the concerto creates an unappealing inconsistency. Furthermore, the wind section of the ECO can sometimes wheeze and puff in a disjointed manner. I am surprised Amazon would highlight this recording, since Penguin and other critics don't have as many good things to say about it. Turn to Uchida for the solo piano works (although, even there, her serious, gentle approach seems to take much of the "zing" out of the faster movements). For the piano concertos, there are many good versions with the ECO--Murray Perahia is a classic, Alicia De Larrocha and Colin Davis have paired up very nicely, and my favorite, the young and spirited Daniel Barenboim (from the '60s). His digital 20/21 with the Berlin Philharmonic is also good. Another classic 21 is Geza Anda's, which was used in the movie "Elvira Madigan." A classic 20 is Rudolf Serkin's with George Szell, although I don't care for that one as much. And, if I haven't given you enough alternatives already, try any of Ashkenazy's Mozart concertos, which are so dear to my heart, I don't want to say anything about them!
I disagree with a couple of your reviewers who dispararage Uchida. I think she is great because of her touch, precision, accuracy (to the original intent of the composer), and I have all of her recordings and listen to them frequently. When I heard the Sonata in A, I fell, and have been an absolute fan of Mitsuko Uchida ever since. I think I have all of her recordings except "Uchida Live," which I understand is out of print. If someone wants to sell me their copy (or if you know where I can obtain one), e-mail me at email@example.com. I just wish Uchida would do all the Mozart concertos. If I am not mistaken, she has not recorded #15 and #16. Correct me if I am wrong. I am on the alert list for every Uchida recording that is released, and I encourage everyone to do the same. It is a great experience to hear her play, and I select at least one recording each week for my automobile CD player. In Atlanta traffic, she soothes my nerves. Howard J. McHenry
Very inspirational. Makes me want to sit down and practice for hours. But could I ever be Mitsuko Uchida? Indeed, could anybody? She has such a divine touch...perhaps inspired by Mozart himself(?). Her command of the keyboard, her intuitive genius for this music...listening to her play is like melting into bliss. Definitely superior than the recording made by Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic. Even if you consider any other recordings to be more definitive, it would be an utter SHAME to miss this recording by Uchida. I promise you!
As the saying goes, "Mozart is Music" and Uchida is Mozart! On this recording, you have two of the most popular Mozart piano concertos in modern performance(that is, played on a very big grand piano--not a fortepiano as they would've been in Mozart's day). Uchida is crisp and technically correct, though perhaps, as some other reviewers have noted,lacking the passion of other artists' recordings. In the familiar No. 21 ("Elvira Madigan") the cadenzas are Uchidas. In No. 20 the cadenzas are Beethovens--thrilling! The recording sounds as if it was done in a marble hall of a very grand Chateau, although it was probably done in Waltham Town Hall, London, with some discrete manipulation of the sound. The result is rich and resonant. I'd personally recommend this for a classical music enthusiast who wanted just one CD of Mozart concertos. But perhaps its even better as a slightly obscure recording to give to a friend who already has a CD by another pianist. It's worth it for the track 3 cadenza alone.
I'm okay with Samantha's comments about the conjuntion betwen orchestra and solo (Uchida). They are in occasions at different intensity or dinamic. Orchestra was a little short. I recommend so the Geza Anda's version of the 21 concerto (sublime).
Once, a learned music lover was heard to say that no woman was ever a brilliant electrical engineer or a brilliant pianist. Should he listen to this, he would change at least the second half of his pronouncement. The only thing better is to buy the entire Tate/Uchida collection.