Mitsuko Uchida / Cleveland Orchestra

Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 18, K456 & No. 19, K459

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Pianist Mitsuko Uchida has long been one of the world's great Mozart specialists, and she has already recorded a complete cycle of the composer's piano concertos. Now she returns to them, with herself as conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. This group's characteristically dry, agile string work was forged by the great George Szell and has survived down to the present day, and it fits Uchida's aims very nicely. Her world of grace, subtle phrasing, and uncannily precise trills and ornaments is not so different from what her established fans will be used to, but the intricate, lively dialogue she forges with the orchestra is something new. The Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K. 456, with all the little humorous fillips in the orchestra that seem to be forgotten only to sneak back into the piano part later, is magical. The Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459, with its structure built up out of open fifths, is a bit less well suited to Uchida's treatment, which doesn't fully exploit the Beethovenian qualities of the opening movement. But there are many good details, and the madcap fun of the finale comes through. A must for Uchida fans, and a strong pair of Mozart concertos for everyone else.

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