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The Uchida Connection: Mitsuko Uchida’s Twenty-Five Year History with The Cleveland Orchestra

February 11, 2016

This Thursday, February 11th through Sunday, February 14th, The Cleveland Orchestra will be joined by a long-time friend and musical collaborator: Mitsuko Uchida. Her all-Mozart concert will be the fortieth she’s given with the Orchestra, and the eleventh she has conducted. Her long connection with the orchestra began in September of 1990, when she performed Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with the Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnányi at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. Since then, she has forged stronger and stronger ties with the Orchestra; in the past several years she has released four commercial recordings with the Orchestra of Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos.  9, 18-21, 23-24, and 27. One of these recordings, a 2009 Decca album of the Concertos Nos. 23 and 24, won a Grammy for best instrumental soloist performance with Orchestra in 2011.

While widely known as a deft performer of much repertoire (especially the music of Schoenberg), Mitsuko Uchida is best known as a “Mozart Specialist.” Her performances of Mozart’s music are critically acclaimed both for her role as a performer and her conducting from the keyboard. As strange as conducting from the keyboard might seem to our modern eyes, having the pianist also be conductor was not unusual in Mozart’s time. In the late eighteenth-century, the concept of a separate and distinct conductor was foreign; a conductor was often whoever was the soloist, the Concertmaster, or the composer themselves (if available). While not practical for most romantic or modern repertoire, this style of conducting is very viable for classical period music such as that of Mozart or Haydn. The experience is different when the pianist conducts – the whole dynamic of the performance changes, as the division is effaced between the “leader” of the orchestra, and one of the participants in the music making.  

Mitsuko Uchida conducting The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, 4/17/2010

Come visit us this Thursday through Sunday and hear Mozart performed by two old friends: Mitsuko Uchida and The Cleveland Orchestra. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances will be at Severance Hall, while the Sunday performance will be at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 

—Alex Lawler
Alex Lawler is an intern this season with The Cleveland Orchestra Archives.
He is a PhD student in musicology at Case Western Reserve University.

Want to know more?

Mitsuko Uchida’s website

An interesting article with some insights into her personality

Her Discography (Mitsuko Uchida records exclusively with Decca, so this is comprehensive)

All photographs and audio clips courtesy of The Cleveland Orchestra Archives.

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