Of all of the names of composers in musical history, Mozart is one of most well-known. As a composer of the Classical era he was expected to write music both pleasing and accessible to the common musician. However, Mozart was not always so light and optimistic as he is commonly known. As often as he could, he placed in his music passages which during his time would have been considered dissonant and unpleasant. Perhaps one the most known of these works is his symphony no. 40 with its rather jarring first theme, but this other side of him can also be brought out in most all of his works in some section of each one of them.
As an interpreter Mitsuko Uchida brings out the darker side of Mozart while retaining the fresh, light sound he is so remembered for. Two things that stand out about her playing are her light tone and clarity. Nothing sounds lost or passed over. Also, the listener is given an excellent sense of direction without over-exaggeration on the part of the performer.
The first piece on the CD is Sonata in C, K. 545, the sonata that Mozart wrote for beginners and which almost every piano student today can testify to having played. The first movement is in sonata-allegro form, and Mitsuko Uchida shows us the bass notes as well as the memorable treble melody by clarity of tone. She distinguishes the recapitulation from the exposition by playing the first theme piano instead of mezzo forte as she did in the exposition. The ending coda goes through dynamic gradations of mezzo forte to forte to mezzo piano.
Movement two begins simply, a beginner's piece yet thoughtfully wrought out with a slow tempo and slight rubatos. In the third section of the movement, Uchida brings out Mozart's darker side with the ascending scales in the bass. All of a sudden all is quiet, and the movement rounds off with a coda.
The third movement is in rondo form. Uchida plays it in a defined manner with a clear sense of beat. By not playing it too fast, she reminds the listener that this sonata was written for beginners who do not have the technical efficiency that much of Mozart and other's music requires. She here brings out the happy side of Mozart, yet there is a certain caution that can be perceived. A heavy coda is followed by a silent ending.
The second work on the CD, the Rondo in A minor, K. 511 opens up with a pensive theme that could be mistaken for Chopin by an unwary listener. However, over the course of time this piece changes to a contrapuntal style not unlike that of Bach. After this section a series of ascending scales lead back to the main theme. Mozart playfully changes the accompaniment to the theme every time it returns. Near the end, bass arpeggios accentuate the theme played in Bach-like imitation between the two hands. Then there is a Romantic style coda and a quiet ending. Overall, Mitsuko Uchida makes this piece defined as a rondo by clearly bringing out the theme every time it appears in the music.
The final composition played on this CD is the Sonata in F, K.533/494. The first movement is, of course, in sonata-allegro form. The themes are Haydnesque, and are followed by modulating bridges consisting of imitation between the hands. The development section busies both hands also, but Mitsuko Uchida makes it sound simple and plays the arpeggios very clearly. In the recapitulation she brings out the bass notes that accompany the themes more than she did in the exposition. Theme two really sounds like a fugue with a solo entry in the bass.
Movement two then commences with embellishments and a melody reminiscent of that of theme one in movement one. Then there is a chromatic passage after which the second section displays loud, dark notes that turn into chords with downward arpeggios. This brings to mind the more pessimistic mood of Mozart's symphony no. 40. A light tune finishes off the movement.
The final movement is a rondo with a cheerful theme that is accentuated by Uchida's clear phrasing and articulation. The theme is variegated in its accompaniment each time it appears. All of a sudden in the middle of the movement one hears dark chords and arpeggios followed by a long trill. This whole part reminds one of a cadenza. The coda displays imitation between hands and the work is closed.