Classical Pianist & conductor Mitsuko Uchida says Young pianists are constantly pushed under lot of pressure to be a star instantly. Japanese born Uchida says it takes a lifetime to understand music.
Uchida has to be careful about her health, since persistent vertigo caused by an inner ear problem left her unable to play for months.
Here are excerpts from her interview.
Uchida had to abandon her Beethoven Diabelli recording because of her health problem, its not scheduled for 2020. When asked Why such a long wait? Uchida says “Because now I am busy working on Schubert sonatas, and that’s a completely different sound-world. You cannot go instantly from one to another.”
After plying professionally for more than 40 years, Uchida is still at the top of her game, which Uchida attributes to her slow and gradual rise. “Nowadays young pianists are pushed, pushed, pushed. There is such pressure to be a star instantly. Everything has to be instant, everything has to be shared on Social media. That is not sharing, that is advertising. Sharing is what happens in a room with a few people at a concert, everyone focused on something they love.”
Uchida’s father was the Japanese ambassador to Austria, which allowed her to move to Vienna, where she lived in from the age of 12. She enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music, where her talent was spotted immediately. But despite winning a competition at the age of 15, Uchida was undecided whether she really wanted to be a pianist, because she did not know what it meant to be a pianist. It took her years to understand that it takes a lifetime to play the piano well and to understand how music really works. Uchida went on to win the Beethoven competition in Vienna, and six years later second prize at the Leeds competition.
Uchida was not really interested in the piano in her initial days (none of her musical gods were pianists). She loved the opera (loved hearing singers like Mirella Freni), she loved violinist Joseph Szigeti, and the cellist Casals. “The great piano God in Vienna back then was Wilhelm Backhaus, but I didn’t like him at all, but you couldn’t say that.”
Uchida also insists that piano players need to develop their unique style. “You have to have your own sound. Think of the pianist Rudolph Serkin. He could play on the worst upright with strings missing, and within a few bars you would know it was him.” says Uchida.
“I have reached the age where I can step back. I don’t have to run around giving 120 concerts a year – 50 is enough for me.” Uchida became co-artistic director of the school with Goode in 1999, and since his retirement in 2013 has run it single-handedly. “I love it so much, but it is such hard work! I have to be mother to them all,” she says.
I can never leave my passion behind. For me music is all-consuming.”
Mitsuko Uchida lives in London and thinks of herself as a Londoner. “You can be yourself in London (England), you don’t have to conform, there’s a great intellectual tolerance.”