Klaviersonaten D 850 u.a.
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As Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida continues her traversal of Schubert, weve been privileged to observe a kind of dual evolution: not only that of the composer, but the accumulated insights of a performer tapping into her by-now exquisitely rare empathy. Some of the most intriguing results have centered on those flashes of the composers early maturity from the mid-1820s (as in the Piano Sonatas D. 845 and D. 575), revealing what a wealth of musical innovation and variety Schubert had already explored before the highly revered last trio of sonatas: those in C Minor and A and, of course, the crowning B-flat. Uchida--performing on an exceptionally responsive 1962 Steinway--detonates the bold, high-spirited opening bars of the extroverted Sonata in D (D. 850) with an exuberance of vitality that will make you gasp. It will also lock your attention as you buckle up for the rest of the journey. Uchida is especially at home in those moments when the music seems to float above the patterns it has just created and enter an altogether new region (the final reprise of the stunningly syncopated contrasting material in the slow movement or the trio of the third). While the technique may not be completely flawless, Uchidas execution of musical thought constantly disarms and captivates: whether in its sensitivity to harmonic color or--particularly noticeable in these accounts--in its deft awareness of Schuberts rhythmic complexity and play. The programming also allows for dramatic contrast, with the disjunctive pain of the A Minor Sonata undoing all the extroverted effusion that has gone before; the disc seems to retrace, on a grander scale, the archetypally Schubertian chiaroscuro. With Uchida, every bar becomes a South Sea of discovery--however leisurely Schuberts own meanderings, these are pieces you wish not to end. --Thomas May
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