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Mitsuko Uchida returns to BBC Proms / The Guardian interview

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Fiona Maddocks chats with pianist Mituko Uchida about the pianist on her beloved Steinways, the sea, sudoku and her long-awaited return to BBC Proms.

Will it feel the same being back at the Proms after an absence of almost 20 years?
Twenty? I thought it was about five! I'm a different person now. The main reason I haven't been is that every year I'm away in Vermont as director of Marlboro Music, a chamber music camp for music students young and old – including myself. I'll never stop being a student.

Do you get anxious?
Always. When you are waiting to go on you wonder how you can do it. Then, as you step out, some psychological trick occurs. You think about the music, how wonderful it is, how lucky you are to be performing it…

The Albert Hall isn't the easiest place to play, especially with the Prommers standing right by your elbow.
It's not half as bad as Vienna's famous Musikverein. No audience is closer. The only reason the piano doesn't fall off the platform there is because a narrow rim of wood holds it on stage. When you play at the top end of the keyboard you find yourself looking at the woman in the red dress jangling jewellery in the front row. Ninety-five per cent of the time there is always a woman in a red dress jangling jewellery in the front row. I've tried keeping one eye shut so I don't see it but that's quite awkward. That colour is very disturbing for a performer. It's what matadors wave to attract a bull. READ THE FULL Guardian INTERVIEW.