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MUSIC REVIEW : Versatile Pianist Mitsuko Uchida Plays at Ambassador Auditorium

February 20, 1988|ALBERT GOLDBERG

Mitsuko Uchida ranks high on the scale of pianistic proficiency. She is small of hand and body, but she has a way of turning these customary handicaps to her advantage. There were few moments in her Ambassador Auditorium recital Thursday night when her large and appreciative audience was allowed to go woolgathering.

Uchida commands an exceptional degree of versatility. She is not exactly a wide-ranging colorist, and there is more variety in her intimate playing than in her bravura. She surmounts all obstacles, however, with a certain pleasure in her own efficiency. Hers may not always be the last word on the subject, but there are never any wide gaps or any tentative episodes.

For all that, it was not the wisest choice to open with Chopin's B-flat-minor Sonata. She raced and blurred the opening motive, she worked hard to build up the Scherzo, the Funeral March was sacrificed to effect, yet the "Wind-over-the-Grave" finale emerged not effective enough.

Uchida proved dauntless in five Etudes by Debussy. She could display the stated technical problem as if each were a specialty and at the same time she controlled the shifting harmonic basis with a sharp ear for balance and color. The Etudes were really the heart of the program; they are seldom heard, and rarely are they exposed with such a combination of technical security and persuasive sound.

It was odd to end the program with Mozart, but Uchida's lightness of finger and delicacy of phrasing offered a microscopic view of the Gigue in G, K. 574, and the Sonata in D, K. 576. Yet, all that preciosity did not do much for the Adagio in B minor, K. 540.

The encores: Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Opus Posthumous, and the second of Webern's Piano Variations, Opus 27.

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