I'm not familiar with Brendel's Schoenberg "Piano Concerto", but Boulez has a special vision for Schoenberg. Listen to his "Moses and Aaron", sharp, cleanly impassioned, razor-sharp edges, provincial the way Bach is played, purely functional, unadorned phrases, and musical shapes. Uchida as well brings a controlled passion to the work, not compromising the work's content in any way. In fact that is a dangerous trap of over-determining Schoenberg, especially the music he wrote in exile, as this Concerto. The darkest clouds of Europa and the globe all around art and the humanity in many ways is inside this work. Schoenberg had renewed his interest in Judaism, where some actually criticized him for doing so,coming back to the fold too late, after living a life of assimilation. Most German Jews considered themselves German first, Jews second until of they were montrously betrayed. All this history is not insignificant and has direct bearing on the work, this Concerto,to experience it from this perspective, of a man in confusion, where he has literally not much to say anymore,certainly dodecaphonic innovation is over, he could not even complete his "Moses and Aaron", did not find a solution to it.Now relying on tried and tested musical genres, known shapes to hide within, to escape to this comfort zone of tradition. The criticism against Schoenberg, by Judaic scholars is all predictably in retrospect, having the luxury of gazing comfortably backwards, retrogressively. Put yourselves in his place and then see how to respond, or not respond. He was firstly an artist, with a composer's temperment hardly the strength for politics, that he also had little capacity for and came too late. There are retrogressive elements in this Concerto, the abandonment and fulfillment of hope for humanity. Uchida and Boulez certainly comprehend this, with there functionally straight empowered reading.Boulez knows just how to balance chords while rendering rhythmic force impeccably, always moving forward aggresively to mount a trajectory for snarling trombones, and screeching wistful strings, industrial-like wind chords, with the soloist,quite independent,pummeling the piano's resonance; pondering questions, going- gesturing forward in thought.
Uchida's solo Schoenberg I found more problematical.I have lived with Glenn Gould first then Pollini as a lifeworld. She does not have the emotive reserve of Pollini, (and I haven't heard Richter who had played the Webern "Variations" in Vienna.) Uchida goes after the music much of the time and makes it strong where it needed be. You can hide these excursions within the Schoenberg where if you have Brahms within your conception of timbre and shape of phrase in your field of vision, it may work,The late Sir Georg Solti also played Schoenberg within a Brahms-perspective. This works, but it is too predictable an approach and creates listening pleasure but little excitement.And the expressionist orchestration gets pummeled and made one-dimensional. I prefer leaner,more Bach-like dimensions of timbre in Schoenberg, where the exposed contrapuntal shapes of his music become empowered by the modern orchestration.Boulez certainly does this consistently.
The fact that Schoenberg did not understand the resonance of the piano, attests to his genius, for this Opus 11 resonance is incredibly powerful dark, and penumbral, raw at times, unfinished at times, and ponderous. Provincial block-chordal accompaniment is what I mean here, nothing adorned, although Schoenberg had his own means of adornment, with broken chords in thirds, and fourth-chords. She does much better with the "Six Short Pieces",allowing the short shards,particles and fragments of timbre,to speak for themselves, something the next generation certainly listened to these more than any other Schoenberg. Miniatures you cannot deal with roughly, you need to simply state the materials and the discourse has ended.
The Webern "Variations" has more problems for me perhaps not for Uchida,who again makes heavy,makes strident, makes noises where there needed be, as in the fist movement. It is also too slow, for the reoccuring mirror two-sixteenths shapes,minor ninths and major sevenths become forgotten if slowed at the tempo she plays them. You need to comprehend the emotive arc, the durational agenda of the entire work as it is perhaps one single movement. The Third movement also made less sense to me, the structures were not a-matter-of-factly played. Webern should have some refined mystery to it,yet not indulgent with some sense of a private world, introspective looking, for an inner life. This was all that was left in Nazi Germany. Ffreedom existed,only within oneself in private realms of thought and discourse, the way the current Leipzig Painters render a private(romanticized) lifeworld today unexplainable,opaque yet filled with icons and places for contemplation with history past, and where it has past them by without explanation.
The Berg Sonata had even more problems,again this Sonata works by understatement, withoutrelative authority,or overwhelming conviction, the quasi-tonal meanderings have more interest when not fitted within the Bach-like frames we previously experienced.Berg then has some mystery to it. He was the most lyrical and backward looking philososphically of these Vienna composers. Trying to make this modest piano solo sound rotund,larger than it already is not and taking on larger dimensions does not work in Berg. His entire life he favored, had an affinity for the chamber realm, even in his two innovative operas, the orchestra is treated at its most effective, when reduced down to chamber projections of accompaniment again with strict variations and sonata forms chamber-ized, fragmenting timbres down to short shapes and sizes for contemplation. Granted, the "Piano Sonata" Opus one is an early work without structural sophistication,nor the intervallic meanderings of his later music,but the Berg aesthetic is there.
I should think more about Uchida's Second Viennese readings, she is a powerful lady, with an intellect of depth and persuasion, with a comprehensive performative constitution. It needs another thought after some time perhaps.