Birth: Dec 20, 1948 in Tokyo, Japan
Genres: Keyboard, Concerto
Mitsuko Uchida, a thoughtful and iconoclastic pianist, was born in Tokyo in 1948. She began her studies in piano during childhood. Her parents, who were diplomats, moved to Austria when Uchida was 12, and she enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music. Even at this young age, Uchida rebelled against the conventional wisdom her teachers tried to impart. She wished to exercise her own judgment in performance, and the Academy did not want to let her. Judges at competitions, on the other hand, liked her judgment, giving her the second prize at the Beethoven Competition in 1968 and another second prize at the prestigous Chopin Competition in 1970. Uchida, however, was dissatisfied with her playing and retired from the competition circuit. Her career built up mostly through word of mouth during the 1970s. During the 1980s, Uchida built up a particular reputation as a Mozart interpreter - ironic for someone who did not like Mozart's music when studying it at the Vienna Academy. She received notice for outstanding performances of the Mozart sonatas in London and Tokyo in 1982, and recorded a universally acclaimed set of the complete sonatas for Philips. Uchida also appeared as soloist and conductor with the English Chamber Orchestra in a cycle of the complete Mozart concerti during 1985-1986. She eventually recorded these for Philips as well, with the ECO conducted by Jeffery Tate. Uchida, never one to rest on her laurels, moved into different repertoire during the 1990s, winning particular notice for her Debussy and Schubert solo piano recordings and her Beethoven concerti. She has also been a champion of the music of Schoenberg, Bartok and Berg, and often seeks to draw parallels between standard repertoire works and these modern masters. Like Martha Argerich, to whom she is sometimes compared, Uchida does not record or concertize prolifically (although she does both more than Argerich). Uchida does not like to be pigeonholed, and often strikes out on her own path; for example, she and a piano technician spent two years transforming a piano into something she felt she could use for Schubert. Uchida then insisted that Philips put the technician's name on the back of the CD - an unusual gesture. While Uchida's interpretations generally sound fresh and spontaneous, these characteristics arise from reasoned and deliberate musical choices. Far from prolific, she is always thought-provoking. Uchida currently resides in London.
- Andrew Lindemann Malone (All Music Guide)
Dame Mitsuko Uchida, (born 20 December 1948) is a Japanese naturalized British classical pianist.
Born in Atami, a seaside town close to Tokyo, Japan, Uchida moved to Vienna, Austria, with her diplomat parents when she was twelve years old, after her father was named the Japanese ambassador to Austria. She enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music to study with Richard Hauser, and later Wilhelm Kempff and Stefan Askenase, and remained in Vienna to study after her father was transferred back to Japan after five years. She gave her first Viennese recital at the age of 14 at the Vienna Musikverein. She also studied with Maria Curcio, the last and favourite pupil of Artur Schnabel.
In 1969 she won the first prize in the Beethoven Competition in Vienna and in 1970 the second prize in the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition. Then, in 1975, she won second prize in the Leeds Piano Competition.
She is an acclaimed interpreter of the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy and Schoenberg. She has recorded all of Mozart's piano sonatas (a project that won the Gramophone Award), and concerti, the latter with the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey Tate. She is further noted for her recordings of Beethoven's complete piano concerti with Kurt Sanderling conducting, Beethoven's late piano sonatas, and a Schubert piano cycle. Her recording of the Debussy Etudes won another Gramophone Award, and so did her recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto. She is distinguished as an interpreter of the works of the Second Viennese School.
From 2002 to 2007 she served as artist-in-residence for the Cleveland Orchestra, where she led performances of all of Mozart's solo piano concertos. She has also conducted the English Chamber Orchestra, among others, from the keyboard. In 2010, she is artist-in-residence for the Berlin Philharmonic. She is an Artistic Director of the Marlboro Music School and Festival, along with fellow pianist Richard Goode. She is also a trustee of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, an organization established to help young artists develop and sustain international careers.
Uchida currently resides in London. Her long-standing partner, Robert Cooper, currently works for the European Union in Brussels.