Mitsuko Uchida is a pianist that has baffled this listener for a quarter of a century. Her latest release of three of Schumann’s works on Decca could be heard as a pinnacle of her artistic efforts, the culmination of a lifetime’s cultivation. Admirably presuming to muscular intellectuality, her precise measurements of all dimensions musical could perhaps be visionary in this digital age.
It could be argued that this is her vision of an un-medicated Schumann, but this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding - classical music should always please. Like listening to graphs, her expression ranges from the abacus to the adding machine, the calculator, and perhaps, if a computer were fed Schumann’s oeuvre it might produce interpretations similar to our pianist.Ms. Uchida’s playing is often bird-like, pecking at tunes, cawing in inner voices, flapping about like a dodo. The fourth movement of the G minor Sonata op. 22 sounds like a cauldron of bats, thousands of them. The Prophet Bird from the Waldszenen op. 82, conjures uncomfortable memories of bad acid trips. The late opaque Gesänge de Frühe is sad in a way that is most reproachable. Delays are everywhere: at bar lines, off beats, chords, melodies, bass. Her dotted hunting rhythms in 6/8 are spastic.
Ms. Uchida has the dedication and consistency of an invalid alchemist. Has one yet to produce gold? The crux of the matter is that she is obsessive to the point of neurosis. Schumann needs a gentler, kinder, healthier soul to take his hand.