In this, the second of her two Carnegie Hall programs of Schubert Piano Sonatas in the same week, Mitsuko Uchida confirmed her status as one of his most-acclaimed interpreters. Continuing a two-year survey of the composer’s piano works, which she is performing throughout Europe and North America, Uchida opened the evening with the early and daring Sonata in B (which Schubert wrote in 1817 when he was twenty). She took a Romantic approach to it, delivering an inspiring performance marked by rich, lingering chords and warmly blended notes. Creating an intimate atmosphere in a space as large as the Stern Auditorium is a challenge, but Uchida succeeded, producing a beautiful, delicate and compelling soundworld.
The Sonata in A-minor demonstrated the best of Uchida. She artfully conveyed the many contrasts of the opening Moderato with tonal shadings and a particularly fine variation in tempos. The wonderful Andante was lovingly phrased, a panorama of light and shade, full of subtle inflections. The Scherzo had great strength and urgency and the Finale sparkled as Uchida’s playing adroitly rendered Schubert’s capricious changes of mood.
Following intermission was the D-major Sonata written in 1825 during Schubert’s sojourn in the spa resort of Gastein, south of Salzburg. Technically brilliant with a lighthearted Finale, the work is bold, energetic and extroverted, and from Uchida it was wildly dramatic, intensely colored and highly expressive. After dispatching the opening bars of the first movement with appropriate vitality, she found extraordinary playfulness in the highly contrasting and increasingly complex themes. In the Con moto, atypical in its quickness, she reveled in the stimulating, rhythmically unsettled variations. After dancing through the substantial, maximum energy Scherzo, she delivered an appropriately charming version of the Finale, letting the lovely lyrical theme shine through and then gradually fading into a slow, hushed coda, providing a surprising end. As an encore, Uchida played the gentle ‘Sarabande’ from J. S. Bach’s French Suite in G, BWV816.