No pianist today plays Mozart better than Mitsuko Uchida. Her probing intelligence, abundant skill and spontaneous joy are perfectly suited to his music. She finds imaginative ways to bring out the drama, lyricism and wit in every phrase, but she tempers those elements with the grace and balance demanded by the classical style, with the result that her playing always sounds thoroughly individual, wonderfully alive and wholly Mozartean. It's no wonder that her all-Mozart program at the Music Center at Strathmore on Tuesday night, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society, was sold out.
Uchida chose to present Mozart at his most daring and intense.
Following the composer's intentions, Uchida played the Fantasia in C Minor, K. 475, with the Sonata in C Minor, K. 457. In her performance, the unresolved tension of the Fantasia's outbursts and explorations seemed to propel the taut, Beethovenian drama of the sonata's first movement. The combination made the gorgeous flowering of the second movement's major-mode melody feel like even more of a relief before a fiery finale filled with unsettling pauses. The Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, drew from Uchida a searching account of its mixture of dark dissonances and resilient grace.
After intermission, Uchida made the shockingly ambiguous harmonies of the Sonata in F, K. 533/494, sound both weird and attractive, with the ruminative coda at the end of the work feeling like a revelation. And while the slow movement of the Sonata in D, K. 576, was unforgettably lovely in Uchida's hands, she showed equal skill in the buoyant, hair-raising counterpoint of its outer movements before bringing the work to its quiet, witty close.
-- Andrew Lindemann Malone