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Mitsuko Uchida, St George’s April 3

April 8, 2009

Well, it says mainly Jazz..  Found myself saying to someone over dinner just before this that I really go for any music which has the quality of improvisation. I don’t know if I’d make that claim for Uchida’s playing, but she certainly can make it sound as if each piece if being heard for the first time – whether contemporary (well, 20th century) or old warhorses.

Uchida really is an electrifying performer, and this was a deeply satisfying evening. Herself and me agreed we could have happily left after the first half. because it was so good we would have been digesting for a while. A Mozart Rondo, Berg piano sonata, and a Beethoven I (rather shamefacedly) didn’t know – all just about perfect. Seen from the front row, she appears transported, and it is easy to feel the same.

The main attraction in the second half was the Schumann fantasie in C, which I don’t like quite so much. Exuberant virtuosity abounds in this piece, but it seems to try very hard for some of its effects. I reckon someone should have told the man that less is more, but others were glad no-one ever did… And hard to imagine it played better than this.

And for encore a tiny portion, almost a fragment, of Schoenbeerg, and a delicious short piece of Scarlatti (I was informed). Perfect. There have been some fine jazz evenings in Bristol already this year, but I fancy this first classical excursion will stay in the mind longer than any of them. Best piano evening since Joanna McGregor’s Messaien marathon before Christmas.

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