Not every performance is stunning, even for the incomparable Mitsuko Uchida.
Pianist Mitsuko Uchida could’ve been canonized or at least elected president if her audience on Thursday at the Kimmel Center held any sway, so cultivated, profound, and immediately communicative was her rendering of Schubert’s Impromptus Op. 90. But after intermission in this Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert, she headed down one of the most bewildering blind alleys in the piano literature, Schumann’s Piano Sonata No. 1.
Few pianists have had so many honors that have been rich in creative opportunities, including residencies in some of the great concert halls of the world. But at age 67 with a still-superb keyboard technique and a probing mind behind it, what is an artist such as Uchida to do (other than wearing gold lamé shoes with her basic-black concert garb)?
The answer on this recital program, which will be repeated Feb. 23 in Carnegie Hall, was confronting the abstraction of Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata Op. 1, a piece whose secrets reveal themselves through analysis rather than in performance, and the distilled simplicity of Schubert and Mozart.
Cadences were periodically delayed by a nanosecond’s hesitation that made you take stock of what came before while creating suspense around what could be next. The occasional dropped note reminded you the performance was the work of a person (as opposed to an angel). Then came Schumann.
Infrequently played but periodically championed by many great pianists, the Schumann first sonata is full of non sequiturs in the extreme, much in the spirit of a David Lynch movie.