We’ve been blessed over the past six months with two fine recordings of Mozart’s 20th and 27th piano concertos together: first Kissin’s with the Kremerata Baltica for EMI and now this one, by Dame Mitsuko Uchida. Her reputation as a great interpreter of Mozart is built solidly on an impressive discography, including the complete sonatas (earning her a Gramophone Award) and concertos (with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Tate). Decades after her previous recordings of the latter she has begun a new cycle with the Cleveland Orchestra, this time choosing to direct the works herself from the keyboard.
Her first effort in the new series, concertos 23 and 24, won Uchida her first ever Grammy Award this year. This, the second instalment, is just as good. Her tone is elegant and fluent throughout, her phrasing simple and natural. What she lacks in dazzle or humour – in the cadenzas especially – she makes up for with sheer beauty and musicality. A Mozart specialist, she is thoroughly in her element here and manages to convey a genuine love for the music.
It is interesting to note that her conception of the works is mostly unchanged since the 1980s, which raises the question of why she needed to re-record them at all. Kissin’s more daring and virtuosic reading of the works, while perhaps not as beautiful or typically Mozartian as Uchida’s, is a more significant contribution. For this reason – not that it’s a competition, of course – Kissin wins by a nose.