Mozart piano concerto performance doesn’t get any better than this, as Sunday afternoon’s packed Symphony Hall audience will surely agree – especially those giving a deserved, for once, standing ovation.
The recipient was Mitsuko Uchida (pictured), playing and directing from the piano two of Mozart’s very greatest concertos, and collaborating in a genuinely chamber music-style intensity with the amazingly responsive and nuanced Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Uchida undoubtedly relished the extra physical involvement her duties required. Often her left hand was eloquently shaping phrases from the COE’s heavenly woodwind section while her right was rippling with decorative figuration.
And throughout these two concertos, the gloriously lyrical A major K488 and the broodingly dramatic C minor, both contemporaneous with The Marriage of Figaro, she made us aware of the operatic context from which all Mozart’s mature piano concertos emerge.
One interesting insight was Uchida’s reduction of the strings to solo players in one of the more inward episodes of K491’s finale. It certainly worked, especially with a piano tone diminished by the absence of a sound-reflecting lid.
Though Uchida was using a modern grand, her subtle deployment of its resources brought to mind the awareness that this was exactly how these masterpieces would have been premiered, performed by the little genius himself.
Concertmaster Alexander Janiczek directed from his music-desk a limpid, coquettish account of Stravinsky’s Apollo, almost Tchaikovskyan in its romantic bloom of string tone. And why not? Stravinsky revered Tchaikovsky, who revered Mozart. The circle is complete.