Pianist  Mitsuko  Uchida

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


uchida One of the most revered artists of our time, Mitsuko Uchida is known as a peerless interpreter of the works of Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven, as well for being a devotee of the piano music of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and György Kurtág.  She is Musical America’s 2022 Artist of the Year, and a Carnegie Hall Perspectives artist across the 2022/3, 2023/4 and 2024/5 seasons.  Her latest recording, of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, was released to critical acclaim earlier this year, has been nominated for a Grammy® Award, and won the 2022 Gramophone Piano Award.

She has enjoyed close relationships over many years with the world’s most renowned orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and – in the US – the Chicago Symphony and The Cleveland Orchestra, with whom she recently celebrated her 100th performance at Severance Hall.  Conductors with whom she has worked closely have included Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, Riccardo Muti, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Vladimir Jurowski, Andris Nelsons, Gustavo Dudamel, and Mariss Jansons.

Since 2016, Mitsuko Uchida has been an Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with whom she is currently engaged on a multi-season touring project in Europe, Japan and North America.  She also appears regularly in recital in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, London, New York and Tokyo, and is a frequent guest at the Salzburg Mozartwoche and Salzburg Festival.

Mitsuko Uchida records exclusively for Decca, and her multi-award-winning discography includes the complete Mozart and Schubert piano sonatas.  She is the recipient of two Grammy® Awards – for Mozart Concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra, and for an album of lieder with Dorothea Röschmann – and her recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra won the Gramophone Award for Best Concerto.

A founding member of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust and Director of Marlboro Music Festival, Mitsuko Uchida is a recipient of the Golden Mozart Medal from the Salzburg Mozarteum, and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association. She has also been awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Wigmore Hall Medal, and holds Honorary Degrees from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 2009 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

==  Biography from the artist's website  
==  Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  BD  


Mitsuko Uchida has performed several times in Chicago.  On an early visit, in September of 1987, she was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with me for a conversation.  She enjoyed my questions, and responded with frankness and humor.

Portions of the chat were aired several times on WNIB and WNUR, and a few quotes were included in an article I wrote for City Talk magazine.  

Now I am pleased to present the entire encounter . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:   Tell me the secret of performing Mozart!

Mitsuko Uchida:   [Smiles]  Ah!  There is no secret at all.  If there was, I wish I knew, or that someone would be able to tell me.

BD:   Do you have a special passion for Mozart because you’ve done him so much?

Uchida:   Yes, but I have certain passions for various composers anyway.  I have a passion for music, and having played Mozart so much for so long, I’ve spent probably the past eight years of my life mainly working on Mozart, which is a lot, isn’t it?  And by having done so, I probably did a lot by a certain sixth sense instinct, or a certain detailed knowledge that I wouldn’t have had unless I had spent so much time on one person.  I wish I could do so in the future on some other composers as well.  This just turned out as it did.

BD:   You don’t want to abandon Mozart do you???

Uchida:   [Laughs]  Of course not, no!  But on the other hand, I feel strongly that I have to do somebody else’s music as well, and almost to the extent that I have done with Mozart.  So, I hope in due course that I will be spending five or six years on virtually anyone else.  Ten years on Beethoven would be a fantastic thought at some point in my life.

BD:   Would that be a good balance for your careerMozart and Beethoven?

Uchida:   For my career I don’t know, but personally yes.  I never know what is good or bad for the career.  You never ever know, so I don’t think about that.  I simply think what I need to do ultimately as a musician for balance.  Not to get too involved with one composer is fine, but not forever.

BD:    Above and beyond Mozart, how do you decide which composers you will zero in on, or even which individual pieces you will work on?

Uchida:   It depends on hundreds of things.  The big factor is the shortage of time.  This summer I spent my six weeks holiday working from morning to evening
really all day long, and sometimes during the night as wellon Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto, plus Debussy’s Twelve Etudes.  This was because I wanted to have done something of the twentieth century.  Because I have been so involved with Mozart, who is a late eighteenth century composer, I found when I was concentrating on Mozart, the most difficult composer to play was Beethoven.

BD:   Why?

Uchida:   I don’t know why, but they are the two most different composers from the performer’s point of view, or from my point of view anyway.  It was not that difficult to switch to Schoenberg or even to Bartók.  I ended up playing mainly Mozart, but all the same, I was still doing a lot of other things.  Chopin was relatively easy, and a similar frame of mind.  Mozart and Chopin both had very vocal hearing.  With all the differences of styles aside, they had vocal hearing.  Beethoven is the one who really has not got any vocal hearing.  His hearing is purely instrumental.  Also, it is easy enough to switch to Haydn.  From Haydn to Beethoven is easy, and from Mozart to Haydn is okay.  Haydn to Mozart is all right, but Mozart to Beethoven, no!  [Laughs]  It’s quite complicated, and I don’t know why it is.  To switch to Bartók was quite all right.  You sort of break away, and that’s fine.  But Beethoven has a lot of things which are reminiscent of Mozart.  Beethoven adored   the C Minor K.491, and the D Minor K.466, and various other things.  All of those Minor compositions have been some sort of model for Beethoven, even the C Major K.503.  I can also see quite a strong link to the G Major Piano Concerto of Beethoven.  It
s just a strong link, but the differences are staggering.  So, I found it the most difficult thing to do, so that’s why I said ten years with Beethoven, because it would be worthwhile spending an enormous amount of time on a particular composition.  Then you start to see different things.

BD:   You’ve mentioned several composers
Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Bartók, and Schoenberg.  Are these composers all on the same level of inspiration and craft?

Uchida:   Mozart had the greatest craft among them all.  It is not pure inspiration, of course.  He had fantastic inspiration, but his craft is so easily overlooked because it is simply of such high order.  Bach and Mozart had probably the greatest craft in music history.  I’m not the only one to think so.  I was talking to a composer who knew about it, and he said Mozart’s technical abilities are just so totally outside one’s understanding.  So, craft-wise Mozart, and Beethoven, yes, of course.
BD:   Are there others that approach that level?

Uchida:   For inspiration, Schubert.  Craft is very difficult to judge, but he has had more music than most other people.  Schumann is another great passion of mine.  His instrumental craft is questionable, but from the point of view of musical ideas, he had such an abundance of ideas.  So maybe it’s not necessarily a craft, but it’s a different frame of mind.  Schoenberg is very, very interesting, but it is a different approach.  He must have had an enormous craftsmanship, although I’m very glad to have discovered some mistakes in his scores!

BD:   [Very surprised]  Mistakes in Schoenberg’s scores???

Uchida:   Yes, mistakes in Schoenberg’s scores, which I thought were purely misprints, but some of them are even his mistakes I was told.  It makes me feel rather good that he was also very human.

BD:   Was Mozart human?

Uchida:   Of course!

BD:   Does that come through his music?

Uchida:   Oh, yes.  There’s nothing else but human in Mozart.  Beethoven has other things.  Beethoven’s music is full of thoughts and ideas, while Mozart’s is human emotions plus music.  It is direct, because there is such an overlapping with these technical abilities.  What he is turns into his music somehow.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Let me ask a great big philosophical question...

Uchida:   [Jumping in]  Oh, no!  [Laughs]

BD:   [With calmness]  Well, let me ask it, and you can decline to answer if you wish.  What do you feel is the purpose of music in society?

Uchida:   I don’t know the purpose.  I know what music is to me, but for the society?  In society in general, any art is to give you some new ideas outside your own thoughts, and outside the real world.  It doesn’t need to be, but it can be easily accessible, or you find it easily beautiful, but it must give you something to speak to your emotional world.  It gives you a different range, because you go to work, you live, and earn your money, and you go on holiday with the kids.  I don’t know what else one does in life, but those matters are everyday life.  Any note of music should transfer you to something else, just as a great painting does.

BD:   Do those same notes of music transcend the different ages that have existed since the music was written?

Uchida:   They could.  The greatest of anything survives its time.  What is down for today, or two hundred years ago, or to any time as such, is fine, but the greatest of arts survives time.  Performances are different.  Certain performances do survive, and certain ones don’t.  There seems to be a certain style which goes with time, but performers are not very important.  What is important is just the composition.  We are just passing things as long as the composition survives.  But that is the main thing, and that’s fine.

BD:   Do you feel the composition has been put in your hands for now, and then you will eventually put it in someone else’s hands?

Uchida:   Absolutely.  Or really, I don’t put anything into anybody’s hands.  I simply float in and float out.  [Both laugh]  Without music I wouldn’t know what I would do in life.  I belong to the very lucky few in the world who is actually making a living out of something that I really want to do.

BD:   Let me ask a balance question.  In the music of Mozart, or in any great music, where’s the balance between the artistic achievement and the entertainment value?

Uchida:   Entertainment value to me is virtually non-existent, because it doesn’t necessarily need to entertain you or anybody.

BD:   Is Mozart not entertaining?
Uchida:   He happens to be, but that’s by coincidence.  He, the professional composer, knew exactly what to put in.  He puts in a little bit of sugar to make it palatable.  He knew how to do it all.  He wrote in a letter to his father from Vienna that it is easy enough for amateurs, but there are also certain matters that will please the connoisseurs in these compositions.  So he knew, obviously, but our purpose is not to make it more entertaining.

BD:   What is your purpose?

Uchida:   To present the music as closely as possible to what I believe it is, or what it represents.

BD:   Where does interpretation figure into that?

Uchida:   It comes as I am doing it.  Whatever I do, or whatever I did to make it as truthful as possible, my interpretation is already there.  The moment I play a note, it’s my sound.  I’m afraid to say that there is nothing I can change.  When I listen to the radio, for example, after three notes I know whether it’s me or not.  Interpretation is not meant to simply show me in a good light.  That’s not necessarily interpretation.  All of that should come from the music, so nobody should be bothered whether I have strong fingers or not.  That’s utterly irrelevant!  Should I have it, fine!  Should I not have it, as long as I can manage to play the piece as I wish for it to sound, that’s all right.

BD:   Does your interpretation strengthen or deepen as you progress more and more into the life and works of these composers?

Uchida:   It does, but any change is difficult to value from within.  It is very difficult for me to make a judgment about my work.  Anybody from outside could do it far better.

BD:   [Gently protesting]  I hope you don’t feel you’re a robot playing it exactly the same way each time.

Uchida:   [Smiles]  Of course not, but it is difficult for me to say whether it has deepened or not.  I do know certain details that I can hear now, which I couldn’t two years ago, for example.  You can say that it has deepened, or that I have lost something else.  You never know.

BD:   Does your technique change at all from city to city, and from performance to performance?

Uchida:   Yes, certainly.  From piano to piano, you have to adjust every time from house to house.

BD:   If you’re playing in a very small house with four or five hundred people, is it different than a large house with two or three thousand people?

Uchida:   That, as well as acoustics, plus a combination of the acoustics and the piano, because you have to play within the instrument that is in the hall.  You have to take that into account, and every instrument is different.  You have to have the ability to adjust, and you have to be able to adjust every time, which is very, very hard.  But that’s our problem.  Violinists, for example, in the first place have a great problem finding good instruments, which are exorbitantly expensive.  But once they have it, they can play on it, and all you need to think about is the hall’s acoustics.  We pianists face a different instrument each time, and it’s very, very tough.

BD:   Will there ever be a time when you’ll carry your instrument, or instruments, with you?

Uchida:   No, no, no, of course not.

BD:   [With a wink]  Horowitz does!

Uchida:   It’s a strange phenomenon in classical music.  A normal classical music piano actually ought not be able to do that.  In an ideal world, of course I’d love to carry around two instruments at least, because one instrument wouldn’t quite cover the difference of all halls.  I do use my own instrument for my recordings, which is a luxury, but I have allowed myself that particular luxury.  It is a Steinway from the early
60s.  Its very mellow, very round and beautiful.  I adore it as it’s speaking.  It has a certain warm quality about it.  I made a grave mistake one day to take that beautiful mellow instrument into the Royal Festival Hall in London.  It simply is not hard enough for that hall.  So, you cannot simply have a beautiful lovely instrument for carrying around.  In order to travel around, ideally you travel with three different ones, and a van, and a driver, and a piano technician.  That would be lovely!  [Both laugh]

BD:   You would have an entire entourage.

Uchida:   Absolutely!  But then the pressure is even worse.  Then you have no excuse anymore that the piano was bad!  That would be horrible!  [Laughs]
BD:   Are most of the instruments you encounter at least reasonable?
Uchida:   No, of course not.  Oh, no, no, no, no!  But I try to do my best to make sure that the instruments are the best possible under the circumstances.  At the beginning of this year, I encountered a horrible instrument in a wonderful hall, so I will remember that when I go back there.  Meanwhile, I travel to some place in Europe just to check and see if I can hire another instrument.  I flew into Paris one time for four hours exactly, and chose the piano for the next concert, which is a hell of a bother.  It’s time-consuming, tiring, and expensive.  On the other hand, for important concerts you have to do that.  In New York I know that I can find a good one.  I’ve struck up a good relationship with Steinway, and that’s actually lovely.  In Paris is the same.  In London, I know two instruments that I like that are for hire.  Whenever I have a concert in the Festival Hall, I wouldn’t use the hall piano because the piano they have at the moment I dislike intensely.  Although it is very expensive, I’d rather hire the outside instrument to play on.  For Amsterdam concerts, I’ve also taken an outside instrument to bring into the hall.  You start to work out your system.

BD:   You mentioned recordings.  Even on your own piano, do you play differently in the recording studio than you do in the concert hall?

Uchida:   While you are very precise about it, you play differently every time.  Today is a different day from tomorrow, and I treat my recordings as the performance I produced on such and such a day, not more and not less.  It just happened to have been recorded.  It’s not for posterity, it’s my performance of that particular day, and, of course, it’s different.

BD:   Do you permit cutting, and using different takes?

Uchida:   Of course, yes.  There is no way you get away without cutting I’m afraid, although I record movement by movement.  There is one movement in my entire catalogue which hasn’t got even a little cut or anything.  It hasn’t been touched at all... not that it is any better, but it simply happens to be like that, and I’m very proud of it.  It
s the C Minor Fantasia that’s almost a complete take.  That was a complete take, but it needed just two little splicings somewhere to correct a scar, and that’s terribly good because that’s a very big movement indeed!

BD:   When you’re playing a live performance of something that you have recorded, do you feel that in the eyes or ears of the public you’re competing against those discs?

Uchida:   No, no!  I forget about it completely because the recordings are, thank goodness, in the past.  If the recordings were in the future, it would be more difficult to fight against.  But they’re in the past, and as I try to rethink about something that I’m doing now, I try to play my performance now so that I try to think again.  I hope that I am playing now better than on the record.  That is what I hope for.  [Both laugh]

BD:   Are the records not in the future, because someone will come to your concert and then next week listen to your record yet again?

Uchida:   Oh yes, that’s true!  But what I have done, from my point of view, it’s already in the past.  Actually, there is a great problem, because it is a matter of planning, but the audience wants the pieces that are on record.  For me, once I have recorded them, I don’t want to be spending the rest of my life playing those same pieces.  I want to do something new.  You have to be working on new things all the time.  After this relative success of Mozart, it would be easy for me to say that’s it.  It’s such beautiful music, and he’s the greatest genius after all, so why don’t I stick to Mozart, and repeat it for the rest of my life?  People would be happy, and it would make my life easier, but its not the right thing to do.  So the problems are what I’m offering people on a program, and what they want to hear me play, are pieces that I would have been happy to play three or four years ago.  But then, when I have recorded those pieces, I am pretty sure three years after the records are out, everybody would want that particular program.  [Both laugh]  You can’t quite win.

BD:   You should record them and retire them, and then come back to them.

Uchida:   And then come back them, yes.  That’s OK, but of course you have to do that all the time.  You have to keep a lot of old things that you revive, and then keep on working on new things, and risk playing new stuff.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Tell me about the differences between playing solo and playing concertos.
Uchida:   [Thinks a moment]  It depends on the composers or the pieces, but in general the concerto world has got so much wider variety of sound because of the orchestra.  I love it, and ideally-speaking there would be a wonderful conductor, and wonderful orchestra who would add musical structure, ideas, thoughts, and emotions that are outside your own.  This is something which is wonderful when it works, and it is so rewarding.  Now and then you have to fight, and you start cursing and wishing it were a recital.  I don’t like to drag the orchestra along with me, and that happens now and then.  But all in all,
the difference for me is that when I am playing a concerto, I am just a part of the entire music, whereas when I am solo, I have to carry the entire responsibility.  It’s for me alone to make the structure, and no one else touches it.  In a concerto performance, you have to throw the ball, and you hope that it is being caught.  Then somebody might throw it back to you, and that’s wonderful.

BD:   In a solo recital, are you throwing the ball to the audience?

Uchida:   I am throwing it into the air.  [Both laugh]

BD:   So no one knows where it will come down?

Uchida:   No one knows, and I’m not throwing just one.  I’m throwing balls everywhere.  [More laughter]

BD:   You’re juggling all of them all the time?

Uchida:   Yes, absolutely.

BD:   What do you expect of the audience that comes to hear your performance?

Uchida:   I don’t expect much, but I hope to be able to share the music.  Although I am playing and listening to the music, I am sharing it with all the audiences.  I just happen to be playing, as well.  When I go to a concert and am a listener, I really want to share the music with a person who is producing it.

BD:   Is this the advice you have for younger performers coming along?

Uchida:   [Sighs]  Ah, no!  I’m afraid to say I have not much advice.  I didn’t know... everybody reacts totally differently.  I’m pretty sure some people do play a performance wanting to make a point about himself or herself towards the audience.  Sometimes you feel that the performer is making a show of it, or they might be very introverted and not actually sharing it with anybody.  I have often seen it when somebody comes on stage and starts playing, and he’s eating up his sound.  That can happen as well.  But for somebody who hasn’t performed much, there are several things you have to learn in life.  One essential thing is that you have to make your own mistakes.  You learn only through your own mistakes, and I’m afraid to say you make hundreds of mistakes every day.  But the mistakes you make on stage, in public, hurt.  You never forget about them, and that’s the only way to actually learn.  Although I have learned a lot, and still find it rather difficult, I’m much better now than before.  One also has to learn to play in every concert hall within that space.  You need to have the sense of that space, and project differently in every hall.  What you’re doing in your own house is basically just imagining what it would be like in a concert hall.  But in every hall, you have to project differently, and that you learn only through experience by playing a lot.  Whether you imagine you are sharing it with somebody, or are basically just throwing it to somebody, it’s a matter of expression.

BD:   Is there ever a chance that you’re putting too many demands on yourself as a performer?

Uchida:   I don’t know...

BD:   What advice do you have for someone who would like to write music for the piano?

Uchida:   I wish the person would play the piano, because it is very difficult to write for an instrument really well, and to exploit all the possibilities unless you play the instrument.  If you don’t, you can put certain totally atrocious demands on the performer that you might not have thought about if you could have played the instrument reasonably well.  In the olden days, the composers played themselves.  Bach was a great organist.  Mozart was one of the greatest piano players, and so was Beethoven.  Chopin was the greatest piano player.  They talk about Schubert
s piano technique not having been grand, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t have the technical brilliance of Mozart, for example, but he could play.  He did play all the compositions that he wrote.  Liszt and Chopin are the greatest piano players of the nineteenth century, and of the twentieth century, Bela Bartók seems to be the last of the line of great instrumentalist composers as well.  After that, Schoenberg is overlapping with Bartók, but Schoenberg did not play very well.  That’s the feeling I get from his compositions.  Strangely, when I play a piano piece, I know how the composer played.  Mendelssohn must have played absolutely marvelously as well, and Webern played quite well, though not great, and not brilliant.  Bartók was brilliant.  He was a great pianist.  I have always wondered how Elliott Carter plays, and I don’t know the answer.

BD:   Do you play some music of Carter?

Uchida:   No, I have been wondering, and have been thinking about it for a long time, but I didn’t come round simply because I’ve been too busy with Mozart, which was slightly more urgent.  But I’m pretty sure that I shall, in due course, play either the Sonata or the Night Fantasies.

BD:   When you’re looking to do new pieces, what do you look for that piques your interests?
Uchida:   I select certain pieces because I always wanted to have done them.  There are hundreds of pieces I can quote to you even now that I shall do in due course, and there are some pieces that I would not do under any circumstances.  Among them are lots of Bach pieces.  I don’t know whether I shall ever play them in public, but I would work on them secretly at home.  But there are many other things you think about in terms of public performance.  For example, I consider the thirty-two Beethoven sonatas simply because I’m curious to play them.  They are great pieces of music, and I want to have done them myself.  Certain pieces you choose because they fit into the framework of a repertoire, and of a program that you are planning to do.  You might have some piece that you have chosen to put into your repertoire, and you look everywhere for the complimentary pieces that might fit into those programs.  That’s one way of doing it.  In the case of Carter, I want to have done it because the music is extremely strong, and I would have to have done it myself in order to know more about it.  The same thing applied to the Schoenberg Piano Concerto.  It was not only that it was a challengewhich it wasbut I simply wanted to know more about that music.  So, I sat down and learned it myself.  That’s the only way.  You must learn it in order to do a public performance, because any less, and you might give up somewhere in the middle.  So, the reasons are manifold.

BD:   Have you given any thought to using other instruments besides the piano
the clavichord, or the harpsichord for instance?

Uchida:   Oh, yes.  I’ve loved playing old instruments.  Harpsichords I love, and I can actually hear in some of Mozart’s music
especially in the solo musicthat he might have preferred to have played them on a very, very quiet, very sensitive clavichord.  Some of the very early ones are harpsichord music, and strangely the last piano sonata might be a harpsichord piece, the D Major, K. 576.  Some of the other later pieces might be almost done on the clavichord.  The Sonatas Nos. 3 and 4the B-flat Major, K. 281, and E-flat Major, K. 282I feel very strongly are rather clavichord pieces than piano.  Of the first six sonatas, the last one is obviously written for a really strong piano.  He finds the piano later.  Actually, when he was composing it, he might not have had a piano, and he might even have played it on a harpsichord.  In those days, some people had a harpsichord, some people had a fortepiano, and some places had more fortepianos than others.  He finds the piano much later, in 1775 onwards, and uses the piano more and more.  He didn’t own a piano in Salzburg.  It was not until he went to Vienna in 1781 that he got a piano.  He must have liked it enormously, but he kept a clavichord.  So, some pieces I wished I could quietly play for myself on a clavichord, but clavichord music you can only share with up to ten people in a little room, so that’s the problem.  If you’re talking about a concert hall, even if you take the strongest of the ones Mozart lovedStein’s pianoto today’s tiny hall which holds 200 people, it might barely make it.  So, that makes it impossible for me to play on an old instrument in a big hall.  [Laughs]  Nobody would hear a note!  It is necessary in a huge hall to play on a huge, strong, big piano.  But I’ve been asked, and I have agreed to plan, a concert in a house which holds lots of old keyboard instruments from 1750 upwards.

BD:   This would be like a small museum?

Uchida:   Absolutely.  It is a private collection of a friend of mine, and he’s just found a beautiful house about fifty miles outside London.  He’s planning to start a piano recital series using those instruments.  He has an instrument supposedly from 1785, so I might use that for a Mozart piece, and then some Schubert on an 1815-1820 Graf.  Graf pianos have a fantastic advantage because they have five pedals!  That fifth pedal is the secret.  It is the extra damper, and has a sort of felt which comes up and stops the vibrations on the strings.  The sound becomes extremely faint, extremely delicate, and very, very pianissimo.  I always wondered why the heck Schubert wrote those fat chords pianissimo, and on that instrument you can play them with the control.  The problem of technical control with Schubert when you are playing on a loud Steinway is tantamount.  It’s fantastic, and you use every device to get the right balance, the right sound.  Otherwise it gets so heavy and cloggy.  You must be very clever with the pedaling so that it doesn’t really become over-resonant.  On the Graf, you can play it almost like a simple piano, and it sounds pianissimo if you use that fifth pedal.  So, I am going to play a Schubert piece on that Graf, and then use a late 1830s Erard for Chopin.  The texture is far lighter than today’s instruments, and it fascinating and very beautiful.  So I’m planning to do that sort of thing, and I look forward to it.

BD:   Once you have played that music on those instruments, will you then play that music differently on the piano?

Uchida:   You might.  That is all I can say, because performances are a matter of imagination, and the wider the imagination you have, the more you can create.  The sound you create is a matter of what you imagined, and what you fantasized.  If you think about it strongly enough, you get it.

BD:   Thank you for spending time with me this afternoon.

Uchida:   It was a great pleasure.

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© 1987 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on September 26, 1987.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following year, and again in 1998; and on WNUR in 2005, 2008, and 2015.  A few quotes from the conversation were used in my article for City Talk magazine of April 27,2001.  This transcription was made in 2022, and posted on this website in 2023.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.