Mitsuko Uchida, Royal Festival Hall, review: Her playing has an inward quality, as though it is being heard in a dream

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“Schubert’s music is between life and demise; he goals, along with his eyes on the far horizon.” With these phrases emblazoned over her programme, that is how Mitsuko Uchida needs us to hearken to her Schubert sonatas, and that is how they now come over.

She’s seventy, and has performed them in public for 50 years; hearken to her recordings from even twenty years in the past and you will notice how her interpretations have modified. Then she was emotionally up-front, with the music in daring close-up: now her taking part in has an inward high quality, as if it’s being heard in a dream.

She made her ordinary entrance on Saturday, giving an athletic bow so low that her hair nearly touched the ground, then settling in her trademark silks with silver sneakers and proper wrist flashing with diamonds like a diaphanous butterfly, and he or she dived straight into the livid octave flourish which opens the middle-period A minor sonata.

That fury was rapidly tempered with light lyricism, the 2 modes contending for dominance till the motion’s truce-like conclusion; the Allegretto with its sly key-changes grew to become an absorbing journey, and the finale flashed fireplace.

Subsequent she performed the unfinished and rarely-performed ‘Relique’ sonata, turning the seeming diffidence of its two actions right into a richly suggestive tapestry. The repeated, starkly-dissonant chords which punctuated the Moderato, coupled with major-minor key-shifts, intensified the questioning temper; at instances the left-hand figurations have been barely a murmur.

The Lied-like Andante emerged from the shadows to guide the argument on – additional musical questions being delivered like breaths of wind – earlier than receding into the shadows as soon as extra.

After the interval got here the B flat main sonata, Schubert’s nice valediction. The opening theme got here as if from distant, as did the growled bass trill, and the primary motion’s labyrinthine course was plotted as an train in implied distances, now in close-up, now on the sting of audibility.

I’ve seldom heard the sluggish motion sound so pure, and so lovely; on this studying, the comedy of the syncopated Scherzo and the hard-won triumph of the Rondo felt like a progressive dream-resolution to life’s issues. If solely: Schubert’s terminal sickness didn’t enable him to listen to it.

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