Mitsuko Uchida | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mitsuko Uchida


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Japanese-born pianist Mitsuko Uchida has quietly made her reputation with sharp interpretations of works from the two great Viennese schools--the first including Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, the second Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg. Many of the pieces are so familiar that a fresh take might seem impossible, and dozens of other pianists--including native Austrians like Artur Schnabel and Alfred Brendel--have already weighed in with persuasive renditions. But Uchida distinguishes herself with the translucency of her mental process: you don't just hear the small idiosyncrasies and detours of her interpretations; you hear why she's making them. Her technique is meticulous, and she can convey powerful drama as well as delicate intimacy. She's recorded all 17 of Mozart's piano sonatas, displaying uncommon intelligence and sensitivity throughout--as though directed by his sense of proportion and integrity. And over the years she's learned how to contrast the Viennese composers at the core of her repertoire, to trace each bequest from forebear to heir: last year she gave a series of recitals in London that juxtaposed Schubert and Schoenberg. Uchida makes her most compelling statements as a soloist, not with an orchestra; despite the openness of her approach, she seems to shy away from partnerships that could compromise her music. She'll be unaccompanied in this Symphony Center engagement, performing a program that shows off her strengths: Mozart's Adagio in B Minor should display her fluid legato; on Chopin's Sonata in B-flat Minor she'll be able to lunge into the ferocious scherzo, then draw herself up for the funeral march; and she should bring clarity to Webern's Variations for Solo Piano and transcendent beauty to Schubert's Sonata no. 15 in D. Sunday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114. Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Zoe Dominic.

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