℗ © 2013 Decca Music Group Limited
For her latest Decca album, Dame Mitsuko Uchida places Schumann’s turbulent Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor Op. 22 in company with his romantic Waldszenen
(“Forest Scenes”) Op. 82, begun in the revolutionary year of 1848, and the Gesange der Fruhe
(“Songs of Dawn”) Op. 133, transcendent creations written shortly before his confinement in a mental asylum. Dame Mitsuko’s empathic understanding of the contrasting character and moods of each work and ability to portray them in sound underline her status among the greatest pianists of our time.
Schumann began work on his Piano Sonata in G minor in the summer of 1830 shortly before his twentieth birthday, crafting its slow movement around the time he decided to abandon studies in the law for life as a musician. Although he completed the Sonata in 1835, he revised its fiendishly difficult last movement two years later at the suggestion of his beloved Clara Wieck, the talented teenage daughter of his former piano teacher. Schumann’s substitute finale, which he blithely described as “very simple”, remains a tough test for any performer’s technique.
date from the last week of 1848 and the first week of the following year. Schumann continued to revise the cycle’s nine movements until its publication at the end of 1850. Several of the Waldszenen
tap into dark emotions, no doubt mirroring their composer’s increasingly painful battles with depression and psychosis.
Six months before Schumann attempted suicide in February 1854 by throwing himself into the freezing Rhine, he was inspired by the poetic notion of ideal beauty to write a five-movement cycle of piano pieces. The Gesange der Fruhe
, sketched within the span of four days, project what their composer described as “the sensations engendered by the approach and gradual emergence of morning”. Their meditative calm leave a lasting impression on listeners, as do the haunting silences and hesitations of Schumann’s melodic writing.
The passion and energy of Mitsuko Uchida’s interpretation captures the G minor Sonata’s youthful spirit. Her readings of the Waldszenen
and Gesange der Fruhe
, meanwhile, echo aspects of Schumann’s tormented mental state during his final years.
Earlier this year, Mitsuko Uchida gave revelatory performances of Waldszenen
, the Piano Sonata Op. 22 and Gesange der Fruhe
at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Her interpretations attracted critical acclaim, with the Guardian praising the pianist’s inspiring artistry. “Ferocious and frantic, Schumann’s G minor Sonata Op. 22 is a real showpiece … Uchida opened the second half with it, on the attack like a woman possessed, never giving the first movement the opportunity to pause for breath, finding the briefest of havens in the tranquillity of the slow movement before ratcheting up the excitement once again through the scherzo and into the finale … [It] was followed with very late Schumann, the strange, rather unworldly Gesange der Fruhe
, to which Uchida gave a touching melancholy …” The Independent’s
five-star review noted how her vision of Waldszenen
“shed light on each [of the work’s nine pieces] in a remarkable way: what unified them was the infinite refinement of her touch, and the freshness with which she imagined each piece; ‘Vogel als Prophet’ (Prophet Bird) was exquisite beyond words.”
Mitsuko Uchida’s deep love for the music of Robert Schumann has matured over many decades. Her recordings of the composer’s piano masterworks, including Kreisleriana
and the Davidsbundlertanze
, stand among the finest in the catalogue, critically acclaimed for their interpretative vision, tonal beauty and refined expression.
ReviewsThis is the playing of a real ˜master' musician who carries every iota of beauty, detail, intelligence and subtlety through to the ultimate degree ¦ Among many excellent recordings of these works, Uchida's up there with the finest.