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not marketing The conductor and musical populariser Charles Hazlewood likes to hark back to the days before classical music was suffocated by etiquette when audiences would to a gig and drink and chat with their mates while listening with half an ear. I love to see him try this at one of Mitsuko Uchida concerts. No! I think that is rubbish! roars Dame Mitsuko, when I put the idea to her. I play a note of Schubert I don want anybody walking around and talking. I stop and say 'Go out, goodbye! Of course! You must be joking!!! Renowned for the sort of implacable commitment to the pianist art you associate with such names as Alfred Brendel or Murray Perahia, Uchida is at the opposite pole from those who believe the future of classical music lies in getting people who look like supermodels to play it in clubs. these people who think it is so easy are more talented than I am, she says. me it is difficult, and I don mind admitting it. But today people want things to happen fast and earn a lot of money, and therefore it is even more important to go to concerts. It gives you a totally different way of concentrating and to have a pocket of time where you can forget about the reality of life. music, for instance, is the essence of human life and he becomes more beautiful all the time. It speaks to you differently at different times. That is the beauty. We sitting in her rehearsal studio in a quiet mews off the Portobello Road, a high ceilinged space with plenty of room for her three pianos. She in the midst of rehearsals for a European tour with the Bayerischer Rundfunk orchestra (known here as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra) under Mariss Jansons, which brings her to London next week. Her home is in a separate building opposite, and the orderly demarcation of her domestic and professional arrangements reflects her steely intellectual discipline. Yet Uchida seems far from being some scholastic automaton. Her conversation is punctuated by manic wails of laughter, as when she confesses her passion for Matt cartoons in the Telegraph ( tell me the sports pages are good, but I could buy the paper just for Matt She was born in the seaside resort of Atami, 50 miles south west of Tokyo, in 1948, though she has been based in Europe since her diplomat father moved the family to Vienna when she was 12. She had no friends or relatives affected by the recent Japanese disasters, though Atami was badly damaged in the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. She was appointed Dame of the British Empire in 2009 after living in London for 35 years, having decided that the Vienna where she studied was too pedantically possessive of its musical heritage. love London, she says, where else can I find a studio in the middle of town? But she isn blind to the city less prepossessing aspects The first few minutes of our interview are spent discussing garbage recycling, which she insists is deplorably ineffective in her borough of Kensington Chelsea. is the only country where the recycling is not separated, she says. and glass and plastic together? How are you going to pick the glass from the paper? This pretence of being 'green give me a break! I pretty sure it all goes to some landfill. This sceptical approach extends to her music, where she has selected the composers and fellow performers with whom she can most effectively exercise her talents, and won be lured into wasting her time on anything less. For Uchida, the bottom line is serving the composer intentions, and she can abide egocentric posturing. like people who read the score carefully, because without that you can go anywhere, she says. can just come up and say 'I am inspired There is no such thing. If you are inspired, I say 'OK, go and compose. If you using another composer piece of music, at least have the decency to try to decipher what other people, who are a million times greater than you, might have thought. That my basic principle in life. She says that these days, she only works with people with whom she can say it is a privilege. at every concert I watch the conductor and figure out what they doing. I play and direct Mozart, and I have to learn to conduct better. She not doing badly. Her first live recording of Mozart concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra, where she conducted K488 and K491 from the piano, brought her a first ever Grammy award last month, and she recently released a second disc comprising K466 and K595. Meanwhile, her schedule includes several British engagements. After the South Bank with Jansons, she perform Schubert Winterreise with Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall next month, and in May she play Beethoven at the Barbican with the LSO and Colin Davis. Though identified with a core repertoire of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, she points out that Debussy and Messiaen also fall within her orbit, and her Viennese years imprinted her with a detailed knowledge of the 12 tonists Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. Having mastered Boulez Notations, she aims to play more of his work. Boulez, music erstwhile scorched earth terrorist, occupies an almost avuncular role in her pantheon. the old days, you wouldn touch him with a bargepole! she hoots. Pierre has mellowed, and he immensely kind. Rehearsing and performing consume most of her time, but she has made sustained commitments to the Marlboro Music summer school in Vermont, where she collaborates with gifted younger artists, and the Borletti Buitoni Trust, which makes financial awards to selected young musicians who are in the process of establishing their careers. She stresses that the latter four person panel chooses musicians solely on artistic merit, blanking out such meretricious notions as marketing and PR. schools like Juilliard are telling students that PR is the most important issue, she says. say it is the least important issue if you have something musical to say! If you have something to say, the world will come to you. notice you see classical musicians in posters advertising expensive watches. That person may be able to command a very high fee, but that not the point. I can vouch that people come to my concerts to hear music, not because they have seen me looking grand with an expensive watch. Watch Uchida conduct Piano Concerto 20 Allegro I on YouTube Uchida plays Beethoven Piano Concerto No 3 at the Festival Hall (020 7960 4200) on March 25, part of the Shell Classic International series, and the Beethoven Quintet in E flat at the QEH on March 27. Starting on May 26, she will perform a complete cycle of the Beethoven piano concertos with the LSO at the Barbican (020 7638 8891)