Mitsuko Uchida Plays Mozart and Summons Messiaen's 'Exotic Birds'

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Mitsuko Uchida made her debut at the Philharmonie in June 1984, performing Oiseaux Exotiques by Olivier Messiaen under the direction of Seiji Ozawa. Thirty years later, in tonight's edition of the Berlin Philharmonic in Concert, she returns to this colorful composition with conductor Simon Rattle.

The French composer transcribed songs of the robin, cardinal, oriole, bunting and many more and orchestrated his carefully notated composition for piano, winds and percussion. It comes with the composer's quite specific directions for the players. In an interview with cellist Ludwig Quandt, Uchida laughingly says that the birds "screech" and "are disgusting," but she loves the music. 

It is she who chose Exotic Birds to go with Rattle's choice – the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major, which opens the first half of this program.

The second half is – in Rattle's words – a "greatest hits" of excerpts from Haydn. From the stage, the conductor sets it up: "[We] would like to play an imaginary symphony of pieces that are that are original, that are funny, that are daring, simply astonishing." It sequences music from The Creation, The Seven Words of Christ on the Cross, and movements from the half a dozen symphonies including the "Farewell" Symphony and music for flute clocks. 

Flute clocks? Rattle explains: "Now flute clocks are like little alarm clocks, but they're little tiny organs. Haydn wrote 60, yes 60! pieces for flute clocks. And I just had the idea of what would [it] sound like at midnight when all these clocks started [to go off]. In fact it's Haydn's Oiseaux Exotiques!"

Program Details:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto in B flat major K. 456
Mitsuko Uchida Piano

Olivier Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques for piano and small orchestra
Mitsuko Uchida Piano

Joseph Haydn: An imaginary orchestral journey featuring excerpts from Symphonies Nos. 45, 64 and 90 as well as from the Creation and The Seven Last Words

Plus: Arvo Part: Fratres featuring the 12 cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic

Below is a video trailer for the performance. A full video can be seen at the orchestra's Digital Concert Hall. A complementary pass for a 2-day trial is available by using the code, WQXR.

The Berlin Philharmonic's recordings are available at and on iTunes.