Argerich review excerpts linked from main pages
====The Sunday Telegraph, December 6, 1998====
The Sunday Telegraph
. . .
Prokofiev / Bartok Piano Concertos. Argerich, Orch. Sym. de
Montreal (EMI Classics 5 56654 2). Dazzling performances by the
inimitable Martha Argerich of Prokofiev's 1st and 3rd
concertos. The brittle music, with its episodes of lyric
poetry, draws the best from her, especially in the superior No
3 where the finale is a major tour de force of virtuosity and
pianism. In Bartok's death-haunted Concerto No 3, Argerich has
more scope for deep expression and makes the most magical
sounds in the `night music' of the slow movement. The
orchestra' s contribution, under Charles Dutoit, is everything
the soloist deserves.
====The Dallas Morning News, July 6, 1999====
Kernis soothes, Argerich sizzles on new albums
Appealing melodies, passion turn up in unexpected places
By Lawson Taitte
Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
. . .
Martha Argerich is probably the world's most exciting pianist. Mozart has not been her thing. But on a new release she comes up with the rip-snortin'est Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D major you've ever heard.
This piece stayed in the repertoire in the 19th century, when little else by the composer did. It's Mozart's most tempestuous concerto. Sadly, most performances are a letdown. They never produce the excitement that always seems latent in the score.
Ms. Argerich offers excitement aplenty. So does the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto under Alexandre Rabinovitch. The trumpets blare out lustily, the strings bear down, and Ms. Argerich tears into the piano part. Purists may be horrified, but this is loads of fun.
Mr. Rabinovitch plays piano as well as conducts the Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major. It's one of Mozart's wittiest pieces, but this rendition doesn't have all that much of a sense of humor. It's not a bad performance, just not as special as Ms. Argerich's Concerto No. 20.
Both pianists team up to play the Concerto No. 10 in E-flat major - for two soloists - with the Wurttembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn under Jorg Faerber. There's some sparkle to it - you wouldn't expect less with Ms. Argerich involved. But the Concerto No. 20 is the real item of interest here.
. . .
====Independent, July 30, 1999====
Classical music: The Compact Collection
Argerich, Kremer, Maisky , DG 459 326-2
THE DATE is May 1998. The venue, Tokyo's Sumida Triphony
Hall, and the event, two explosive trio performances shared
between pianist Martha Argerich, violinist Gidon Kremer and
cellist Mischa Maisky. The Shostakovich Second Trio opens
like a distant prayer in mid-winter, icy- cold and angular,
though heated arguments soon fire the breath. Argerich is
her usual coltish self, Kremer sinewy and unpredictable and
Maisky, the Trio's warm tonal centre.
Shostakovich's Largo sets in with eight stark piano chords
that Argerich spaces with daring breadth, and the finale
uses a wily Jewish-style theme that turns up again - pushed
to unendurable limits of tension - in the Eighth String
Shostakovich's E minor Trio was composed as a memorial to a
professor at the Leningrad Conservatoire and demands maximum
concentration, whereas Tchaikovsky's soul-baring Trio
commemorates Nikolay Rubinstein (one-time director of the
Moscow Conservatoire) and calls for extraordinary physical
Argerich thunders the keys with as much energy and passion
as Vladimir Horowitz did 22 years earlier at Carnegie Hall
for a legendary live Concert of the Century (Sony
Classical). But where Horowitz (in league with his
colleagues Isaac Stern and Mstislav Rostropovich) performed
only the first movement, Argerich and her team go the whole
way - which means a 30-minute "second half" that
incorporates a waltz, a mazurka, a fugue, a sonata- form
"finale and coda" and a highly melodramatic funeral march.
To call this playing free-spirited would be an
understatement. "Way over the top" might be more accurate,
though musical integrity and sense of spontaneous
re-creation suggest to me that we'll still be returning to
it in 50 years' time. There's also a hilarious encore - a
musically related send-up that will have you in stitches -
but I won't spoil your fun by spilling the beans.
ROB COWAN, Classical music: The Compact Collection.
©1999 Newspaper Publishing P.L.C.
====San Francisco Examiner, February. 4, 2000====
Bay Area has Grammy classical nominees
Examiner Music Critic
Friday, February 4, 2000
THE ANNUAL Grammy Awards, set for Feb. 23, will again feature a
classical musical component and the possibilities this year are
intriguing. The Bay Area community, starting with the San
Francisco Symphony and Symphony Chorus, is once more prominent
among the nominees ...
. . .
Shostakovich: Trio for Piano, Violin and Violincello No. 2 in E
Minor, Op. 97. Tchaikovsky: Trio for Piano, Violin and
Violincello in A Minor, Op. 50. Kiesewetter: "Tango
pathetique." Martha Argerich, piano; Gidon Kremer, violin;
Mischa Maisky, cello. DG 289 459 326.
The category is Chamber Music Performance and the winner,
whether or not NARAS deems it so, is this scorching
collaboration, taped during a Tokyo concert in 1998 and patched
up later in the studio. This marked only the second occasion on
which all three of these extraordinarily volatile musicians
concertized together (Maisky and Kremer attended the same music
school in their native Riga) and it was one of those explosions
waiting to happen.
The catalog boasts several fine performances of these trios;
they're often paired on disc. But none so penetrates to the
hearts of these scores. The Shostakovich, a memorial to a
friend, is steeped in tragedy, yet the rage against the dying
light has never sounded so terrifying. Tchaikovsky scarcely
emerges conventionally pretty here; this trio really digs in
and some listeners may find that hell-for-leather detailing an
uncomfortable experience. The Japanese audience is
preternaturally quiet, probably stunned.
The major Grammy competition is the Mutter Beethoven set. Nice,
but this one is revelatory.
====The Times [London], March 19, 2000====
The Times, 3/19/00
Live from the Concertgebouw
EMI 5 56975, £15.99
It is almost 20 years since the volatile Argentinian abandoned performing and recording solo piano in favour of concertos, duets and chamber music, but rumours persist that she is about to make a "comeback". So this programme of works by Bach, Chopin, Bartok, Ginastera and Prokofiev - taken from recitals in the archives of Netherlands Radio - is a timely reminder that Argerich recitals are big events. Not all of the repertoire here is new to disc - there are studio recordings of the Bach Partita in C minor, of the Chopin Nocturne in the same key and the Scherzo in C sharp minor - but Argerich is on incandescent form here. Purists may not respond to her Bach - whose fast movements she plays with the rhythmic pungency she brings to both the Bartok Sonata and Prokofiev's Sonata No 7 - but her virtuosity leaves one open-mouthed. HC
====THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, SATURDAY, May 20, 2000====
By Fredric Koeppel, for The Commercial Appeal
Martha Argerich: Live from the Concertgebouw 1978 & 1992:
Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 25; Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMANCES SHOW PIANO'S HEART, SOUL AND MUSCLE
Famously reclusive, tardy or absent, Argentine-born pianist
Martha Argerich can be forgiven her reluctance and
eccentricities when we hear such albums as these, recorded at
Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in 1978, 1979 and 1992.
Eleven years separate Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25, completed
in 1786 - Mozart would die in 1791, at the age of 35 - and
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, composed in 1797, when
Beethoven, at 27, was poised at the beginning of a
revolutionary career. The two concertos share not only the
commandingly sunny key of C but a ceremonial mode that leans in
Mozart toward witty grandiosity and in Beethoven to engagingly
boastful self-confidence. It's as if Mozart had passed the
torch of Viennese classicism to a younger man who could flex
his muscles and transform it eventually into Romanticism.
Argerich's reputation rests on passionate impetuousness, but
for these concerto renditions she tailors her brio to fit
performances of remarkable nuance. Her shifting coloration, her
emotional attachment to the profundity and gaiety of the music,
her ability to dominate the keyboard without subduing it and to
achieve balance with the orchestra make us hear with fresh
perspective these great concertos that we have often heard
On the other hand, Argerich bars no holds in the accompanying
album of solo piano music. She leaps into Chopin's Scherzo No.
3 in C-sharp minor with such blinding speed it would seem there
was nowhere to go, but she continues to the end in relentless
torrents, seemingly consumed by the flames of her own
virtuosity. Chopin's Nocturne No. 13 in C minor, the most
monumental and elegaic of the nocturnes, becomes, under her
hands, a miracle of suspended animation. Bartok's Piano Sonata
from 1926 is ferocious and aggressive, while Prokofiev's Piano
Sonata No. 7, one of his war-time sonatas, is a restless and
unanswered cry of torment. Then Argerich surprises us with two
brief encores, a dervish-like Scarlatti sonata and the
"Bourree" from Bach's English Suite No. 2, which she manages to
make sound compact and angelic.
For the effect of fierce intelligent and rigorous technique
married to combustible ardor and animation, neither of these
albums should be missed.
====The Boston Globe, May 25, 2000====
MARTHA ARGERICH "LIVE FROM THE CONCERTGEBOUW: 1978-79" EMI
The pianist Martha Argerich , absent from the solo recital
circuit for nearly two decades, has recently resumed solo
repertory playing, at least for one fund-raising occasion in
New York. A new CD from EMI presents her in full cry in
material taped in recitals in Amsterdam in 1978 and 1979,
programs on which she played works such as the Bartok Sonata
that she has not otherwise recorded. Despite some problems, the
disc gives a strong indication of just how much the public has
The performances boast all of the pianist's legendary
qualities of speed, accuracy, and temperament - there are some
repeated notes in a Scarlatti encore that are simply beyond
belief in their trip-hammer accuracy. But the the CD is not
easy to listen to because of the harsh, closeup quality of the
recorded sound. The Chopin C-Sharp Minor Scherzo is
particularly unpleasant, and extra edge is not what Argerich 's
fiery Bartok needs.
A companion disc presents two concertos Argerich has recorded
before - Mozart's K. 503 and the Beethoven First - but Argerich
is a spontaneous artist who never sounds the same, even in
pieces she's been playing all her life (the Beethoven First was
on her debut concert at age 7). She's so famous for dragon
slaying it's interesting how elegant she can sound in Mozart
and Beethoven, while losing nothing of her personal volatility
and spontaneity. Szymon Goldberg and the Netherlands Chamber
Orchestra provide a stylish framework for her extrovert and
====The Dallas Morning News, June 13, 2000====
Musicians presented on their own terms:
Composers, Argerich show candid sides
By Lawson Taitte
Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
. . .
Martha Argerich, arguably the world's greatest living pianist,
basically doesn't do recitals anymore. So EMI has unearthed
some from a couple of decades ago for Live From the
Concertgebouw, 1978 and 1979. They make you sit back and shout,
Bach's Partita No. 2 in C minor isn't new to Ms. Argerich's
discography. But this performance makes sense of the piece in a
way that few, if any, have before - whether from pianist or
harpsichordist. Ms. Argerich is often a dynamo, best when she
drives on inexorably. This Bach - and the little Scarlatti
sonata that's one of the encores - show that the approach can
illuminate baroque music. And it doesn't preclude elegance,
Almost half of the CD is devoted to major works from
20th-century masters. Bartok's Sonata and Prokofiev's Sonata
No. 7 both benefit from Ms. Argerich's motoric technique. Here
is a pianist who isn't afraid to turn up the voltage.
Ginastera's Danzas argentinas benefit from the more nuanced
approach the pianist gives them.
Two pieces by Chopin also show us Ms. Argerich at her most
titanic. The Scherzo No. 3 is an obvious candidate for all that
electricity. Surprisingly, it works well for one of the
. . .
====The Daily Telegraph, July 15, 2000====
The Arts: Classical CD of the week
Richard Wigmore; 7/15/2000
Bach Toccata in C minor BWV911; Partita No.2 in C minor BWV826;
English Suite No.2 in A minor BWV807. Martha Argerich (piano)
(DG Originals 463 604-2)
"A BACHIAN stylist to the manner born," proclaims the booklet,
for once without a trace of hyperbole. On this reissue of a
classic 1980 disc, Argerich's Bach is commanding, searching and
Deploying an uncommonly wide spectrum of dynamics and colour,
from fortes of tempered steel to the most velvety pianissimo,
Argerich makes no apologies for using a modern Steinway. Yet
her playing has a humility and a lack of affectation that
recall Sviatoslav Richter in Bach. She is sparing with
expressive rubato and eschews the use of the sustaining pedal,
voicing the polyphonic textures with unerring clarity and
As ever with Argerich, these performances also generate a rare
sense of spontaneous discovery. Rhythms are buoyant yet tautly
controlled, contrasts unusually bold, as between the Partita's
delicate, sinuous Allemande and the fiercely explosive Courante
that follows. Time and again, Argerich conceives Bach's
sectional dances in a single, exhilarating sweep, presenting
the Bourree of the A minor Suite as a continual crescendo of
Hair-shirt authenticists may bridle. But for others this disc
offers Bach playing whose combination of poetry, structural
insight and sheer visceral excitement has rarely been equalled.
- Richard Wigmore
====American Record Guide, September 2000====
BACH: Partita 2; English Suite 2; CHOPIN: Sonata 3;
Nocturne 13; Scherzo 3; BARTOK: Sonata; PROKOFIEFF: Sonata 7;
pieces by Ginastera & Scarlatti--EMI 56975--73 minutes
By Harold Schonberg
These are recordings of Argerich concerts
in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, 1978 and 1979.
That's some 20 years ago, but I cannot detect
much difference between Argerich then and the
Argerich of today. The same awesome technique,
the unflagging rhythm, the fast tempos, the
kind of animal excitement she brings to her music,
the tonal control--all are there.
And don't underestimate her musicianship. This woman is
one of today's greatest pianists. Her fingers
perform miracles. How many living pianists could
so easily and clearly handle the cascading
downward figurations of the Chopin C-sharp-minor
Scherzo? Or so deftly communicate Bach's
counterpoint? Or attack Bartok with such
power without ever sounding percussive? (The
Argerich way is the way Bartok himself played
Bartok.) Or manage the repeated notes of the
Scarlatti D-minor Sonata with
such speed and pinpoint clarity?
And she communicates with an audience. She probably
is the most exciting pianist in the world
today (though young Arcadi Volodos is coming
up fast; and we do have Kissin, though to my
ears his playing is sounding more and more vulgar).
At her Carnegie Hall recital earlier this
season her audience went wild, refusing to clear
the hall, demanding encores that the obviously
tired pianist was reluctant to give. The audience
crowded up to the stage apron. I had not seen
anything like this since a Rachmaninoff or Hofmann
recital in the 1930s. Her tempos are of that
period, much faster than today's.
Some years ago I was a juror in the Warsaw Chopin
Competition, and one pianist came forth and
used an unusually fast approach in the F-minor
Ballade. The juror next to me grinned and
whispered in my ear "Martha tempos". We get those
here, and how refreshing they are in an era
of slow tempos. Slow is profound, so many young
pianists today are wrongly taught. Argerich is
a corrective to this nonsense. The engineers have
captured not only her sound but also the warm
- Harold Schonberg
====American Record Guide, September 2000====
MOZART: Piano Concerto 25; BEETHOVEN: Concerto 1
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/ Szymon Goldberg (Mozart);
Concertgebouw/ Heinz Wallberg--EMI 56974--65 minutes
By John Beversluis
Both concertos were recorded in concert: the
Mozart in 1978, the Beethoven in 1992.
The audience does not make a peep.
Argerich is in superb form in both. Her Mozart
is alive: sparkling and infused with passion
appropriate to the composer. Her tempos are
brisk, her articulation crisp, her passagework
flawless, her scales even, her pedalling sparse,
her phrasing idiomatic. I and III are fast and
dramatic, while II (an Andante) is played with
a direct and uncluttered simplicity that is quite
Argerich gives every note its full tonal
(and emotional) weight without the slightest
trace of sentimentality and without sabotaging
the forward momentum that must be maintained
if the movement is not to sink under its own weight.
She is beautifully supported by the orchestra.
The woodwind playing is particularly distinguished.
I am less enthusiastic about the Beethoven, though
I hasten to add that the fault is largely the
conductor's. The concerto begins sluggishly and
with insufficient brio. Tempos are on the slow
side, string articulation lacks crispness, and themes
are too generalized. Argerich does her best to
try to pick up the tempo and move things along,
but she is held in check by Heinz Wallberg, who
seems determined to have things his way and
slows things down whenever Argerich has a break.
Recommended for the Mozart.
- John Beversluis