Mozart: Piano Sonata in C Major, K. 545
Widmann: Sonatina facile
Schumann: Fantasie in C Major
The grand dame of the piano is back for her annual visit to Carnegie Hall and music-loving New Yorkers are flocking en masse. Although I have always found the Stern Auditorium, for all its beauty and prestige, too large a space for intimate recitals, I am more than willing to happily suck it up for the privilege and pleasure of hearing Mitsuko Uchida unperturbedly work her magic in front of her customary collectively mesmerized audience.
In cases of long-time established artists like Ms. Uchida, the program is almost secondary, but I was still particularly thrilled to see that she would be playing Schumann’s splendid love letter that is his Fantasie in C Major, admittedly one of the most memorable compositions ever written for the piano. It would be preceded by his dynamic Kreisleriana, Mozart’s graceful Piano Sonata in C Major, and a mysterious New York premiere for a carefully balanced evening.
The concert started in the most understated and captivating way with Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C Major, a relatively short and deceptively simple work that nevertheless rarely fails to leave a lasting impression, especially when it is played with the elegance and clarity that Ms. Uchida put into it on Thursday night. Light and compelling, it was a wonderful tribute to the Viennese master.
After Mozart’s delightful classicism, mischievous Florestan and introverted Eusebius made their conspicuous entrances in Schumann‘s Kreisleriana and animated the eight self-contained vignettes with verve and determination. Ms. Uchida proved one more time her deep affinity to Schumann’s music by expertly highlighting the detailed contrasts between the two colorful characters.
The mystery du jour was Jörg Widmann’s Sonatina facile, which actually was not so easy, but plenty fun. Inspired by our evening’s opening number, this 10-minute piece kept some of Mozart’s classical elegance while offering some decidedly modern deviations from it. The result was an intriguing and engaging exercise, the ovation greeting the composer only confirming that it had been a worthy enterprise.
Last, but for sure not least, we finally got to voluptuously indulge in his Schumann‘s breathtaking Fantasie in C Major. When the Fantasie first came out, Franz Liszt was allegedly one of the very few pianists able to handle its daunting technical challenges, therefore rightfully earning the work’s dedication to him, but Ms. Uchida did not seem to have any trouble on Thursday night either, and treated her impressively diverse and clearly adoring audience to a magnificent performance of it.
She wholly dived into it as soon as she sat at the piano, beautifully conveying the composer’s passionate feelings toward his beloved and far away Clara in the lushly expansive first movement. The second movement, during which Clara famously could hear “an entire orchestra”, had an unabashed sense of drama and heroism that expanded way beyond what could be expected from a single piano. The last movement unfolded delicately poetic and yet unmistakably intense, as if Schumann still did not how to deal with all those powerful emotions. He did get the girl though, and truth be told, what girl would not give in to that?
And since we made it heard that we were not ready to leave yet, Ms. Uchida added another treat to an evening that already contained quite a few with Mozart's Andante cantabile from Piano Sonata in C Major, which you brought us right back to Square 1.