Schoenberg Piano Concerto etc

Uchida marries Viennese radicalism and 19th-century romanticism to typically lucid effect

Author: 
Arnold Whittall
SCHOENBERG; BERG; WEBERN Piano Works – Uchida

SCHOENBERG; BERG; WEBERN Piano Works – Uchida

  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
  • (3) Klavierstücke
  • (6) Klavierstücke
  • Sonata for Piano
  • Variations

This programme might have been put together with an eye to avoiding any direct competition. No harm in that, but the issue of comparison scarcely arises, since Uchida’s distinctive musical personality and outstanding technique make her Schoenberg, Berg and Webern well worth hearing however many other versions of these works you have in your collection.

Uchida brings a marvellous spontaneity and sense of drama to the more overtly romantic compositions here – Berg’s Sonata and Schoenberg’s Op 11 Pieces. This is certainly not one of those accounts of the Berg where you question the composer’s wisdom in marking the first section for repeat. As for the Schoenberg, never have I been more aware of this music’s closeness in time and spirit to the cataclysmic world of the monodrama Erwartung. Uchida’s earlier recording if Op 11 was warmly praised, and this one is no less accomplished. Elsewhere, her relish for strongly juxtaposed contrast risks occasional over-emphasis, as in the third of the short Op 19 pieces, and the virtues of more sharply articulated playing in this repertory are demonstrated on Peter Hill’s admiral bargain-price Naxos disc. His account of Webern’s Variations is exemplary in its clarity and feeling for line; yet Uchida manages to suggest deeper links with more romantic perspectives without in any way traducing the music’s inherent radicalism.

Links with romanticism are even more explicit in the texture and thematic character of Schoenberg’s Concerto, and this performance places the work firmly in the tradition of Liszt and Brahms. Not even Pierre Boulez, with his well known scepticism about the music’s neo-classicism, can bring ideal lucidity to the occasionally lumpy orchestral writing, but the performances a whole, with excellent sound, has an attractive sweep and directness of utterance. Alfred Brendel’s second recording remains a fine achievement, with a special touch of geniality in the first movement. But the orchestral playing is less refined than on the new disc, the recording drier, with a flatter perspective. Nor are Michael Gielen’s readings of Schoenberg’s two chamber symphonies as competitive as Uchida’s of the solo piano works

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