Argerich review excerpts linked from main pages

====The Sunday Telegraph, December 6, 1998====
The Sunday Telegraph
Michael Kennedy
. . . 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.

Michael Kennedy

====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.

. . .
Lawson Taitte

====Independent, July 30, 1999====
Classical music: The Compact Collection
Shostakovich/Tchaikovsky: Trios
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 Quartet.

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 stamina.

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
Allan Ulrich

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.

Allan Ulrich

====The Times [London], March 19, 2000====
On Record
The Times, 3/19/00


MARTHA ARGERICH 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

Hugh Canning

Memphis, Tennessee
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
EMI Classics
Four stars


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 before.

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.

Fredric Koeppel

====The Boston Globe, May 25, 2000====
Richard Dyer

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 been missing.

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 delightful Mozart.

Richard Dyer

====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, "Wow!"

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, either.

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 nocturnes, too.
. . .
Lawson Taitte

====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 deeply humane.

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 logic.

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 intensity.

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 Concertgebouw acoustics.

- 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 touching.

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

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