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Born in Atami, a seaside town close to Tokyo, Japan, Uchida moved to Vienna, Austria, with her diplomat parents when she was 12 years old, after her father was named the Japanese ambassador to Austria. She enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music to study with Richard Hauser, and later Wilhelm Kempff and Stefan Askenase, and remained in Vienna to study when her father was transferred back to Japan after five years. She gave her first Viennese recital at the age of 14 at the Vienna Musikverein. She also studied with Maria Curcio, the last and favourite pupil of Artur Schnabel.
In 1969 she won the first prize in the Beethoven Competition in Vienna and in 1970 the second prize in the International Chopin Piano Competition. In 1975, she won second prize in the Leeds Piano Competition.
In 1998 Uchida was the Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival in conjunction with conductor and violinist, David Zinman.
She is an acclaimed interpreter of the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy and Schoenberg. She has recorded all of Mozart's piano sonatas (a project that won the Gramophone Award), and concerti, the latter with the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey Tate. Her recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez won another Gramophone Award. She is further noted for her recordings of Beethoven's complete piano concerti with Kurt Sanderling conducting, Beethoven's late piano sonatas, and a Schubert piano cycle. She is distinguished as an interpreter of the works of the Second Viennese School. Her 2009 recording of the Mozart Piano Concertos nos. 23 and 24, in which she conducted the Cleveland Orchestra as well as playing the solo part, won the Grammy Award.
From 2002 to 2007 she served as artist-in-residence for the Cleveland Orchestra, where she led performances of all of Mozart's solo piano concertos. She has also conducted the English Chamber Orchestra, among others, from the keyboard. In 2010, she was artist-in-residence for the Berlin Philharmonic. She is one two Artistic Directors of the Marlboro Music School and Festival, along with fellow pianist Richard Goode. She is also a trustee of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, an organization established to help young artists develop and sustain international careers. In May 2012, the Royal Philharmonic Society announced that she would be honored with their Gold Medal (she received the society's annual Music Award in 2003); previous recipients have included Johannes Brahms (1877), Frederick Delius and Sir Edward Elgar (1925), Richard Strauss (1936), Igor Stravinsky (1954), Benjamin Britten and Leonard Bernstein (1987).
Uchida currently resides in London. Her long-standing partner, Sir Robert Cooper, currently works for the European Union in Brussels.

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