LSO/Colin Davis Mitsuko Uchida: Mozart

Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat, K595
Requiem, K626 [completed Süssmayr]

Mitsuko Uchida (piano)

Marie Arnet (soprano)
Anna Stéphany (mezzo-soprano)
Andrew Kennedy (tenor)
Darren Jeffrey (bass)

London Symphony Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 30 September, 2007
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Another “Sir Colin Davis at 80” concert. An overture would have been nice. By Mozart, of course! Here Sir Colin was joined by Mitsuko Uchida, now a famed pairing of collaborative musicians.

Mitsuko Uchida. ©Decca/Benjamin EalovegaMozart jotted down ideas for what we know as his final piano concerto a couple of years before its completion, which rather questions the valedictory association that the work now has. In any case Uchida mined successfully the more menacing aspects of the work while playing seductively and concentrating on the emotions of the work. She displayed absolute empathy with the music and the cadenza was flowing but punctuated with doubt – an ideal contrast. The apparent simplicity of the piano’s statements in the Larghetto allowed for quiet, private mourning, highlighting Mozart’s supreme gift for understatement. The opening of the final Allegro was jolly but never glib: an perfect balance to uncover the music’s pessimistic facets: a blooming, radiant flower with black borders.

As an encore, Uchida offered what might be described as ‘Improvisation on Happy Birthday’ with the orchestra joining in. Then a large birthday cake was presented to Sir Colin!

The “Requiem”, Mozart’s last work, possessed an excitable frisson, with the performers giving their all. From out of nowhere did the opening notes come – very eerie. This was a ‘big’ performance where the naked power of some passages was quite overwhelming; in his programme-note interview with Sir Colin, David Cairns notes that the so-called “authentic” movement has passed Davis by, for which the conductor is unapologetic.

Of the soloists, Andrew Kennedy and Marie Arnet were the most successful in producing clear and pure tones that were able to rise above the tumult of the orchestral passages or to delve deep in to the heart of the piece. As a quartet, there was a Baroque quality, such as in the ‘Recordare’, and although the Chorus was in collective powerful voice, this missed the tender aspects that can be found in the piece. Overall, though, this was an uplifting performance (being recorded for LSO Live) able to restore faith in a troubled Mankind.

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