Mahler Chamber Orchestra & Mitsuko Uchida at Royal Festival Hall

Piano Concerto No.23 in A, K488
Fantasias – in A-minor; in B-flat; C-minor; in F (Upon one note)
Piano Concerto No.24 in C-minor, K491

Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Mitsuko Uchida (piano)

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 5 February, 2022
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Mitsuko Uchida has an extraordinary capacity to bring out all the colour and complexity in music. It is her ability to perfectly judge the necessary ‘weight’ with which to touch, caress or sound a particular note or chord, and the delicacy and sometimes ferocity she lavishes on music. The only element of ostentatious flamboyance in these performances was her brilliant silvery shoes! And what rapport with the MCO. What conversation in K488. Her playing at the start of the slow movement was wonderfully sprung yet elegiac – one felt the audience breathing with her. The final movement had all the jauntiness one could hope for – Mozart having a wonderfully playful time!

A sense of menace was present in the sinewy, tonally equivocal and brooding opening of K491. Hauntingly intense piano-playing was again the hallmark of the middle movement, and this was followed by one of Mozart’s finest theme-and-variation movements, triumphantly built to its conclusion.

Between the Concertos, led by Mark Stenberg, MCO members gave a richly sonorous account of Purcell’s viol Fantasias. These were wonderfully evocative of sadness, uncertainty, wonder and sometimes playfulness. The clashes of the C-minor one were exquisitely voiced; the middle-C foundation of the final one ever-present.

Following K491, Uchida gave an encore – the first movement of the Sonata K545. You could have heard a pin drop.

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