Opinion is divided here about this set, and I'd like to weigh in heavily on the favourable side. I love Uchida's Mozart sonatas. She is to me, with the possible exception of Murray Perahia, the greatest Mozart pianist of our age.
Some people have found Uchida's playing lacking in emotion, but this is music from the Classical era, between the contrapuntal complexities of the Baroque and the sweeping emotion of the Romantic, and one of its defining characteristics is its form or structure. There is plenty of feeling throughout the set - simple joy in the opening Allegro of K545, or lambent beauty in the Adagio cantabile of K333, for example - but it is expressed through carefully crafted form as well as inspired melodic themes and wonderful harmonic creativity and these shine through under Uchida's fingers. There are no sweeping gestures or great gushing outbursts, but for me Mozart's fabulous music comes straight from her heart and goes straight to mine.
Often in a dramatic performance by an actor restraint and control are far more effective in conveying deep feeling than a lot of roaring and gesticulating. Similarly here, where Uchida respects the music's inner structures and lets it speak for itself while obviously loving and feeling it. Consider her playing in the opening Allegro moderato of K330; no flashy tricks or overblown look-how-intensely-I'm-feeling-this techniques, but a lovely, lovely tone, immaculate technique and a wholly involving, beautiful delicacy which brings it completely alive. I couldn't ask for more.
This is the definitive Mozart set for me, and I don't say that lightly given the quality of the competition. It's worth saying, too, that at fifteen quid for all five CDs, it's an absolute snip. (Some of us paid an awful lot more in the dim and distant past, and still thought it excellent value). I cannot commend this set too highly. Pure treasure.
on 9 August 2008
The effect of these interpretations is one of precision, clarity and luminosity; i.e. Musical Classicism. It's true that they may seem a bit emotionally restrained (that's what classical restraint is all about however), too symmetrical in feeling and perhaps too personalised in their choice of tempi or touch, but the effect is very beautiful and refined. The interpretation is very classical without late Baroque, Rococo, or Romantic influences. Perhaps this is not 100% historically or musically accurate, but overall taken within their own context as one artist's interpretation of Mozart, I like the view. Other pianists have other views. I definitely do not think that Maria Pires for Brilliant is on the same level as these interpretations, as one review has suggested, nor is Alicia della Roccia technically at the level of Uchida either, although she does convey another type of feeling and view which is perhaps a more feminine and romantic view. It's a matter of taste and expectation. I think Uchida does gives you an insight into these pieces that is very personal yet very classical at the same time with great detail and which conveys great musical delight and playfulness as well.
The answer is, no, I didn't, but this box fell into my lap, used, at a ridiculously low price, so I have them all. I'm certainly not going to criticize it for being complete, but you won't want to play many at a time. Make selections, balance early with late, mix in some chamber music by other composers -- then you'll be more likely, I think, to savor the pleasures of the individual sonatas. Uchida plays them with great energy and clarity, with elegance and grace where it is called for. The sound is on the bright side -- I bumped my volume down a bit to compensate -- but it never becomes dry or rattly. There's a sweetness to her tone that the recording catches well. I have heard some of Schiff's Mozart sonatas, and Decca gives him a sound that is a bit warmer than Uchida's. I might marginally prefer it just as sound, but I like Uchida's energy in the allegros. As far as the music is concerned, I find it less compelling than Beethoven's sonatas, but then Beethoven was interested in the piano in a way that Mozart wasn't (and couldn't be, given the instruments of his time). For the great Mozart, we go to the operas, symphonies, and concertos. The sonatas, for all their charm, are not as emotionally engaging. But I can't imagine these being done any better than they are here. In the accompanying booklet, there is an excellent overview by Erik Smith of Mozart's sonata production that is tied to his other works-in-progress at the times of his sonatas' composition. It's just fine for the non-expert listener like myself.
Uchida's interpretation of the sonatas is insightful and, where appropriate, very moving. In my opinion this is a "must have" box set for anyone wanting to have all of the sonatas in one collection. On the point of the music itself, I used to overlook Mozart's solo piano music in favour of his concerti and the Operas. So, when I bought this set I was amazed how much invention there is in these often intimate works. The famous one is the A major with the Rondo "alla turca", but for me the best one is the No.8 sonata (A minor). It looks forward to the Romantic period with its melancholic air and surely an influence on the young Beethoven when he would have studied the sonatas, and then went on to produce some of his best works on the keyboard.
on 4 November 2011
First of all - Mozart isn't Liszt. These sonatas are not the place for emotional extremes and strong feelings on big banners. To hear the profound emotions in this music you have to calibrate your hearing to another scale - a more intimate one.
Uchida has done that. And she manages to give that further to the listerner through her playing.
Here is a clarity and a respect for the style that open up this music. Her goal is not to add something to the music, she is there to give the music full justice in itself.
Her playing neither dry nor over-sweet. Her technical brilliance is of course there, but she uses it to create music.
She has a natural choice of tempi and phrasing.
on 29 May 2012
I think the Mozart's Sonatas are too often neglected and forgotten in favour of the Concertos, and dismissed as learning pieces. Some of the Sonatas, while not possessing the same degree of difficulty as say Beethoven's sonatas, are difficult, conceptually and technically challenging works, like the sonata in D, k576. While some others are comparatively easy, it takes a real virtuoso such as Uchida to bring these pieces to life and make them sparkle.
Superb Mozart playing is on display here. To use a cliché, as crystal clear as a mountain stream. Originally given to me as a present, I have developed a great affection for this set. Uchida often takes these Sonatas at a brisk and lively (but musically appropriate) tempo. The slower middle movements are unhurried, and Uchida brings out the full beauty of these works, without lingering. Scholars among us may well agree this is how Mozart is meant to be played.
Uchida's playing is exceptional, and not overly romantic. I see that for this, her playing has been criticised by some as cold, clinical and lacking in emotion. I hasten to disagree, the beauty in her playing is modest and subtle, and so it might take a while to get to you.
This is my favourite complete Mozart Sonata cycle among stiff competition which includes Barenboim, Eschenbach, Pires and Brautigam, although the Barenboim set suffers from mediocre sound quality. Unfortunately Murray Perahia, another great Mozart pianist didn't produce a Sonata cycle. Finally, there is nothing to fault in terms of sound quality and packaging. Thoroughly recommended!
on 4 December 2001
The world's greatest exponent of 18th century piano music, the Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida, plays ALL of Mozart's piano sonatas.
The combination of the world's greatest composer and Uchida is one of the few truly perfect combinations in music.
Mitsuko Uchida plays Mozart like no-one else can (leaving Barenboim and Horovitz in the shade).
She plays with a purity and lucidity that simply astounds.
If you're learning the piano, you'll rush to it to try and play as she does!
on 20 November 2008
The written word isn't a natural medium for me, nor is the English language. Anyway I feel it's important to weigh up against the unfavourable ratings for these recordings. Mitsuko Uchida is for me one of the two truly great pianists alive; Sokolov is the other one. Uchida's playing, including that on her complete Mozart sonatas recordings, is on a supreme level. It's impossible for me to understand, and therefore very difficult to take seriously, notions that her playing should lack life, warmth, soul, naturalness or whatever. It has all that and much much more. Please read Marcolorenzo's review, I agree completely with him. Come on, Uchida's Mozart is a miracle of greatness and perfection.
There is no doubt that Mitsuko Uchida is one of the leading Mozart pianists. And that fact alone gives this release credibility. But if we look deeper we find that this release is a magnificent example of her ability.
Full marks must go to Phillips for bringing this major project together. To get all of the Mozart piano sonatas in one package is an incredible acheivement. The recording concept and organisation by Erik Smith and Rupert Faustle at the Henry Wood Hall London give us magnificent piano sound.
The recordings were made over a period of a few years during the 1980s. The complete set is recorded digitally and the sound is excellent in tone and balance.
Mitsuko Uchida gives an unfailingly stylish performance from the heart. She is crisp and elegent, clear and accurate. She is dramatic when it is needed and can also lend to a spacious and thoughtful performance on other occasions. She is immaculate with rhythm and tempo and has great feeling for dynamic colouring. In fact all of the pieces are performed with great sensitivity. The whole collection is a set of recordings with distinction,
on 21 May 2011
These are just few comparative comments on three sets of Mozart complete piano sonatas: Schiff (Decca), Uchida (Philips), Eschenbach (Deutsch Grammophon).
I got the Schiff collection (recorded 1980) about ten years ago and I have enjoyed it for a long time. These interpretations can be described as elegant, serene, delicate, yet they might appear at time somewhat bland and not entertaining as the other two sets are. The recorded sound is very good (analogue recordings beautifully remastered on CD) but it is annoying that the sonatas are presented in a random order, and not based on the catalogue number as in the other two sets.
I got the Uchida collection (recorded between 1983 and 1987) in 2004 after reading the recommendation from the Gramophone magazine. These interpretations can be described as joyous, very entertaining with generally fast tempi, precise in every detail and every single note clearly audible. Also in this case the recorded sound is quite good, even if a slightly less warm than the Decca set (digital recordings). Yet I had the feeling that in all this apparent perfection something was missing and often I was going back to Schiff.
Not totally satisfied by the interpretations from Schiff and Uchida, I finally got the Eschenbach collection (recorded between 1967 and 1970) after reading many positive reviews on the US Amazon website. At first I was disoriented by the different approach and tempi. But then I realized that this set is definitely the one I prefer. In my opinion more passionate, more musical, more natural, more variegated tempi with more fluency in the fast passages and more feeling in the slow moments, an higher dynamic range giving a beautiful insight into these compositions. The recorded sound is also quite good and beautifully remastered on CD.
Depending on your personal tastes you might like one set over the other two. I don't think there is a wrong choice as in any of these three sets you will for sure enjoy the beautiful Mozart piano sonatas. So I believe that these three sets deserve the maximum rating. Anyway, I have my favourite: Eschenbach.