Grammy winning pianist returns after 26 years

The Folly stage was empty Friday night, but for the Steinway grand. As the lights dimmed, pianist Mitsuko Uchida made her entrance to rousing applause from a crowd of stalwart and young admirers.

From the very first note, you could tell that this master of Schubert’s intricate melodies was going to surprise us with her musical finesse. Yet it was the force with which she commanded the proceedings that was immediately shocking to hear.

“Franz Schubert was a good pianist, not a great pianist,” stated Uchida, following her exciting Folly performance. “In 1827, a year before his own death, Schubert was summoned to the death-bed of Ludwig Von Beethoven to perform a private concert of his own compositions.”

Schubert did not come from a musical family. He began as a boy soprano. Composing became his specialty; his began writing dances, and progressed to arias, string quartets, sonatas and symphonies. He did not live to hear his own symphonies performed by an orchestra.

There were three of Schubert’s sonatas presented Friday by Ms. Uchida. The first, the sonata in B major, written in 1817, was a musical tour-de-force.

Program notes say, “He began composing sonatas at the age of 18 and continued doing so until his death. Before Schubert passed away at age 31, he had created a dozen sonatas.” For this reason, Ms. Uchida has taken the past two years to exclusively study and perform Schubert’s sonatas; four major concerts featuring three sonatas each.

The second piece in Friday’s repertoire, Schubert’s piano sonata in A minor made me think of the music of the great rock-hair-bands of the 1970s. It glided easily back and forth from a power chord theme to a lilting melody as sweet as a spring breeze.

Mitsuko Uchida becomes the music as she performs. Resplendent in a black chiffon pantsuit, gold sash and gold pumps, she moved with the forceful grace of a gymnast. She bowed before and after each intricate piece, with utmost respect for those who were fortunate enough to share her presence for this unique solo event.

Schubert was a master of paining pictures with his music, and the final piece of the evening was created in an Austrian spa in the state of Salzburg. Titled the “Gasteiner” Schubert’s sonata in D major is a travelogue in music.

Asked if she performed the music and its repeats as written, Ms. Uchida replied frankly, “The music will tell you where to go. If you plan it, it becomes yesterday’s bread.”

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