Mitsuko Uchida - Royal Festival Hall, 5 October 2010
Mitsuko Uchida's playing is too often characterised as 'cool' or 'delicate' when in truth that's just one small aspect of her capabilities. The centrepiece of her programme, Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze, proved it. Each of the eighteen little 'dances' - or were they fragments of a conversation? - was searchingly individualised. Time stood still as Uchida drifted through the more meditative, introspective episodes. Yet she turned into a different pianist as she exploded through the furious runs, levitating briefly from her seat as her fingers powered into the keyboard, rhythmically precise as a flamenco dancer.
Before the Schumann came Beethoven's Sonata in E minor, Op.90. Uchida's idiosyncratic interpretation revealed the logic of this pairing, so like the Schumann in the conversational swing she imparted. Described by Beethoven himself as 'a contest between the head and heart', it was in Uchida's hands romantic in every sense, a dialogue between lovers.
The second half of the evening was devoted to Chopin. Running straight from the Prelude in C sharp minor to the third Sonata without a break, the conversational theme continued as Uchida teased out the contrapuntal layers in pearly skeins, floating the melody magically on top.
The sizeable and unusually well-behaved audience were treated to just one encore - the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Has Mitsuko been reading James May?
Mitsuko à la Muybridge: