Wonder if she can chew gum and walk, too?

Portrait by Richard Avedon of the pianist Mitsuko Uchida, who played Mozart, March 18, 2010 at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

CLASSICAL Now that Daniel Barenboim is gone, CSO-goers have fewer chances to see conducting from the piano. Last night’s all-Mozart concert, where Mitsuko Uchida conducted and soloed in piano concerti nos. 17 and 27, scratched that jack-of-all-trades itch. Dressed in an eye-catching but very comfortable-looking turquoise top and diaphanous blue jacket, Uchida presented Mozart’s playful themes with precision and emotionally communicative phrasing. She also gestured with broad, dancerly strokes, sometimes even abandoning the basic conducting pattern, making me suspect that the dramatic movements were less to guide the orchestra and more for the benefit of the audience or to get herself into the affect she wanted for the piano passages.

In fact, the orchestra demonstrated that it could play this style of music without a conductor in the middle piece on the program, the Divertimento in F Major, which was played chamber-style by a string orchestra. (They could have used a conductor during the applause to emcee the bows, though: The concertmaster alternately stood and sat, then finally walked offstage alone while the rest of the orchestra stayed. That was awkward.) Not that it matters whether the players needed to see more than when to start, when to stop, and how to slow down—the overall effect blended exactitude and effusiveness to produce just what you think of when you think of Mozart. Uchida plays/conducts the same program today at 1:30 p.m. (as of 11:30 a.m., tickets were still available) and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

GO: Thru Mar 20. $18-$210. Orchestra Hall, 220 S Michigan, 312-294-3333. cso.org

  • The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s website includes streaming recordings of recent concerts and events in its CSO Radio channel.


Photograph: Richard Avedon/Courtesy Chicago Symphony Orchestra