Piano Concerto No.6 in B flat, K238
Piano Concerto No.25 in C, K503 Dvořák
Czech Suite, Op.39 *
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Mitsuko Uchida (piano/director)
Alexander Janiczek (director) *
Wednesday, October 13, 2004 Royal Festival Hall, London
Reviewed by William Yeoman
This superb concert began with a sparkling performance of Mozarts B flat Piano Concerto, directed from the keyboard with great artistry by Mitsuko Uchida. The Allegro aperto was characterised by Uchidas crisp articulation and delicately tapered phrasing, complemented by the COEs beautifully clear enunciation of Mozarts textures; which was in turn augmented by the antiphonal arrangement of the violins a factor that also served to heighten the drama inherent in sections of both the Dvořák and the C major concerto to follow. The Andante I found surprisingly moving, such was Uchidas subtle rhythmic shading and the orchestras sensitive accompaniment; the Rondo by contrast was quite intense, with Uchida injecting colour and excitement into this seemingly innocuous movement, thus preparing us for the forthcoming majesty of the C major concerto.
But before that came Dvořáks Czech Suite, directed by the COEs leader Alexander Janiczek. And what a performance! From a compact and not overly lyrical Pastorale, Janiczek drove the orchestra hard through a simultaneously light and robust Polka and an equally precipitous Sousedská, before taking a breather with a glorious Romanza, in which the wind soloists painted their colours with great skill above the rich tone of the strings. Then came a rousing Furiant no hazy edges here, but very tight ensemble and some seriously exciting playing.
Following the interval, Mitsuko Uchida returned for Mozarts Piano Concerto No.25. What was most apparent in the Allegro maestoso was the rapport between orchestra and soloist, which really brought out the essential humanity of Mozarts music: a spectacularly grand opening emphasising the contribution of the wind band; the beautiful communication between the winds and piano (which was to make the final movement such a joy); the way the orchestral accompaniment grew so naturally and almost imperceptibly from the piano part; and to cap it all, a wonderfully witty cadenza in which Uchida underlined the similarity between one of Mozarts themes and La Marseillaise. A light-filled Andante then led straight into the Allegretto finale, in which a delicate opening made the orchestral tutti and the soloists initial all the more effective. Again, superb work between Uchida and the flute, oboe and bassoon trio, which lent an intimate chamber-music feel to the overall effect of the movement without lessening its dramatic impact which was considerable.
A real event, then. The orchestra joined in the lengthy applause for Uchida, as well as congratulating each other with handshakes and slaps on the back. As well they might it was a nights work well done.