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Outstanding Mozart concerti
on 5 March 2007
I don't think this series of three discs by Mitsuko Uchida and the ECO can be bettered. I have enthused about her Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas and the Concerti are just as good. Uchida has a real empathy with Mozart, I think, and you get the sense of love and joy in the music combined with magnificent musicianship.
She is crisp and sensitive in the quicker outer movements and has the power when needed to play as the orchestra's equal. In the slow movements Uchida's beautiful tone is a joy and she judges the mood perfectly, making them truly beautiful without a hint of sentimentality or Mozartkugel-flavoured kitsch. This is not easy in such over-exposed movements as the Andante of K467, for example, but she is absolutely exemplary in her empathy and restraint.
The English Chamber Orchestra are ideal in this repertoire. It is no coincidence that both Uchida and the great Murray Perahia chose them for their Mozart recordings. The orchestra - here under Jeffrey Tate - are vigorous, supple and responsive and again avoid any intrusion of the saccharine nonsense which mars some Mozart performances. You can almost hear the collective grins of the orchestra during some of Mozart's more outrageous show-off finales, and there is a fabulous understanding between them and Uchida who worked with the ECO a lot.
It seems to me that the only close competitor to this series is Murray Perahia's Complete Mozart Piano Concerti (also with the ECO) which are equally good, but weigh in at well over £60. And it's worth saying that on Radio 3's Building A Library, the reviewer said that he couldn't imagine even Mozart playing Mozart more beautifully than Murray Perahia, but still chose Uchida's recording of the Jeunehomme Concerto (K271, on Volume 3) as the best available. I'm not arguing with either part of that. In fact I've ended up with both Perahia and Uchida's sets and love both, but at budget price you simply can't go wrong with the Uchida set.
If you're undecided, I suggest you buy Volume 1, and I bet you'll only have to listen to the drama of the opening Allegro of K466 and the sheer beauty of its second movement Romance before wanting to order the other two.
The only minor drawback of these recordings is that the packaging looks rather cheap and the notes are sketchy, but the music more than compensates.
Mitsuko Uchida is, in my view anyway, one of the truly great Mozart players of our generation, and this is her at her magnificent best. Recommended without reservation.