March 25, 2000 Carnegie Hall reports

Rare Solo Appearance - A Celebration of Life and Music

Carnegie, March 2000Click on photos for larger ones


        For The New York Times:
        Photo on left by Chris Lee, 3/14/00         Photo on right by Steve J. Sherman, 3/25/00

      Newspaper reviews    
      NY Times interview
      List of pieces played
      Benefit information
      JWCI history
      {Updated 12/6/16 & 2/5/17}

Forum reports - Rec.Music.Classical.Recordings
Jeff Friedman's photos of music forum attendees
My two photos of music forum attendees
Post-concert photos
Post-concert photos, Page two
Pre- and Post concert photos, personal
From online tour of Carnegie Hall's stages

(Latest main articles/reviews, more or less, on top)

====Newsday, March 27====
Argentine Adoration at Carnegie
By Justin Davidson, Staff Writer

It's pianist's first solo U.S. recital in 19 years.

Music by Bach, Chopin, Prokofiev,Schumann and Ravel.
With Nelson Freire, piano and the Juilliard String Quartet. Carnegie Hall.
Seen Saturday night.

PERHAPS, in its 109-year history, Carnegie Hall has seen a night like Saturday's recital by Martha Argerich - her first in this country in 19 years.

But maybe not.  Having gone so long without hearing the pyrogenic Argentinian pianist play solo, a tenacious audience howled and stamped, demanding six curtain calls before intermission, and 16 more at the end of the concert, refusing to go home even when the lights went up and a stagehand removed the page-turner's chair. People had noticed that the piano bench stayed - and understood it might still get used. It was.

What prompted this sustained adoration was not just the rarity of the event - she has, after all, appeared at Carnegie Hall with orchestras with reasonable regularity - but the sense she created that music is a wild, elemental activity.  I can't think of another pianist who commands such a volatile combination of technical mastery and unselfconsciousness. Her greatest peers deal in deliberate sensitivity, structure and microscopic poetry, but Argerich's playing seems to well up from some bubbling, liquid core of musicality and fear. She sped up to the very edge of her technical control, always threatening to spin off into a series of hysterical shudders.

Her stampede through Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata transformed a work of cruel, hammering chords and bristling harmonies into a terrifying dance.

Chaos lurked, too, behind her rendering of Chopin's C-sharp minor Scherzo.

She plays lyrical passages the way a tiger purrs: dangerously, with a quiet intimation of violence. The Chopin F-sharp major Barcarolle opened with a reassuring splash of waves that soon built into a seismic tremor. The fragile counterpoint of Bach's Partita No. 2 coiled into something tensile and terrible, like a steel cable humming in the wind.

Paradoxically, Argerich, who has said that she hates feeling lonely onstage, filled the second half of her non-solo recital with chamber music, where frenzy must be a joint decision and rapture a collective experience.

Somehow, the voltage that courses through Argerich's veins jumps like lightning into her partners'. The Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire matched her heat in a two-piano version of Ravel's "La Valse," an evocation of a ballroom gone insane. The Juilliard Quartet, always an intense ensemble, joined her in a messy but incandescent performance of Schumann's E-flat major Piano Quintet.

The melodies surged in controlled eruptions, and the third movement broke into a wild gallop.

After that, merely to clap seemed somehow insufficient.

- Justin Davidson

====American Record Guide, July 2000====    
The entire interview is too good as a whole to excerpt, so I am hoping the publisher will forgive my quoting the entire piece, for this occasion, while crediting the source.

Review by Shirley Fleming

"Prokofieff is the composer with whom Argerich is probably most closely associated, and his Sonata No. 7 brought into focus the qualities that ignite her playing so vividly. The first movement (marked inquieta - an understatement) was an exhibition of ferocity and whiplash intensity; the melodic warmth of the slow movement was given great tenderness; the pulverizing finale was simply volcanic, based on pile-driving left-hand hammers in the bass that must have shaken the foundations of the stage. One's stomach was clenched when she finished."

See Full review here for now.

====New York Times review====

Argerich with Juilliard Quartet James R. Oestreich's review in NY Times's New York Today.

Photo: Steve J. Sherman

Photo at right, by Chris Lee, from the March 14 Prokofiev 3rd concert, introduced the online version of The New York Times review of the recital.

Start of the NY Times review:
"Electricity Onstage, Then a Tumult Off
James R. Oestreich, 03/27/00

Carnegie Hall may not have offered anything quite like this since Vladimir Horowitz returned to the recital stage in 1965 after a dozen years of retirement.  Here, on Saturday evening, was the electrifying Argentine pianist Martha Argerich in her first major solo appearance in 19 years."

    See the rest of James R. Oestreich's review here.

"A Poetic Side to Prokofief? Yes Indeed" - by Allan Kozinn for the NY Times, reviewing the 3/14/00 Prokofiev Concerto #3 at Carnegie Hall.  (If the link fails, try the copy posted in the L-Soft Classical Music archives.

    That forum archive includes a report for the Classical Music List by composer Paul W. Hofreiter on this concert in Philadelphia 4 days before.  Here's the forum-archive list including those March 2000 topics and responses to them.

====Excerpts from NY Times, April 2====
New Jersey Weekly Desk
Pianist Takes Back Seat, But His Talent Doesn't

April 2, 2000
. . .
Now imagine this scene: Ms. Argerich, frantically acclaimed by a standing, shouting, full hall, refused to take any solo bows at all. Over and over she dragged Mr. Friere back onstage, and amid a half-hour of curtain calls, she allowed only two encores, both partnered with him.

The two artists have more in common than their South American birth and lifelong friendship. Musically they are soul mates: the music sits lightly with them and they bear it swiftly along. A Rachmaninoff encore went like the wind but kept its shape -- revealed it, in fact. A Ravel encore, the Pagoda segment from ''Mother Goose,'' wafted like an oriental fragrance.

Mr. Freire's back-seat demeanor places him in a position of perpetually being discovered. The substitution brainstorm came from Anthony Fogg, the Boston Symphony's Australian-born artistic administrator, who once brought Mr. Freire to Australia. ''He's a forgotten figure in American musical life,'' said Mr. Fogg. ''He doesn't like to play a lot of concerts. His musical temperament is so intense that a few is all he can sustain.'' What appeals to Mr. Fogg about the playing, he said, is ''the beauty of sound -- very much an Old World style -- and the absolute clarity.''

Mr. Freire could certainly be a top artist if he found a way to bench his modesty. He doesn't seem to be looking, however. After the Carnegie Hall finale, Argerich fans thronged the corridor, scanning the guest list for their names, pleading with the door staff. Mr. Freire, predictably, had no guest list at all, and was not seeing anybody.

Also typically, requests for an interview of Mr. Freire for this article went unheeded.

Audience members hoping to stand on his line Friday might do better to home in on what should be a memorable performance.


Seiji Ozawa, conductor, Nelson Freire, piano. Works by Berlioz,
Dutilleux, Rachmaninoff.

Friday, 8 p.m.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Center Street, Newark.

(888) 466-5722.

- Leslie Kandell

====NY Times interview with Martha Argerich, March 25====

Interview conducted by ANTHONY TOMMASINI
An Enigmatic Pianist Reclaims Her Stardom
    Published on the Front Page of the New York Times, March 25, 2000.
    This was the first in-depth interview, in English, given to a periodical in over 20 years.  (Excerpts from the 1978 Clavier interview by Dean Elder can be read here.)

From Carnegie Hall online tourFrom online tour of Carnegie Hall
("From the wings" perspective is found under "Stage Door" option.).

=== Beginning of the NY Times interview===
"Few people who have heard the tempestuous Argentine-born pianist Martha Argerich play ever forget it. She is a colossal technician, a powerfully intuitive musician and an electrifying performer. Just last week at Carnegie Hall, as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra... Her fiery, ecstatic performance elicited a frenzied ovation, including 10 curtain calls, from a sold-out house.
    Though she inspires cultlike devotion among ordinary concertgoers, her admirers include many of the world's most respected musicians. Mstislav Rostropovich, the great cellist and conductor, recently called her  'a pianist with no limits at all, none whatsoever.' ..."
=== Read the rest of it at Google Groups, where it was reposted for discussion
        when the original article was no longer available.

Updated Feb. 5, 2017: The original NYTimes article is now available at their Archives: An Enigmatic Pianist Reclaims her Stardom.
  And you can read other archived articles by Anthony Tommasini in which Martha is a topic.

====Tower Classical epulse magazine, April 3====
Tower Classical epulse online
The weekly ezine published by Tower Records/Video
April 3, 2000


Carnegie Hall may have hosted better concerts this season -- though I doubt it -- but none had so electric an atmosphere nor such a semi-hysterical audience outburst of love and gratitude than MARTHA ARGERICH's first New York solo recital in 19 years.

She stepped from the wings to a standing ovation lasting several minutes. Before the applause died down, she struck the gravely powerful opening chords of Bach's Partita No. 2 and continued with a scintillating performance of the work, its closing Capriccio more a fiery flow of molten lava than mere notes on a keyboard.

Clad in black, her mane of brown hair covering her face, she then launched into Chopin's "Barcarolle," turning it into an outsized tragic tone poem. The gently rocking figure in the bass took on an ominous air; the trills, merely delicate pianistic lacework in conventional performances, became bell-like portentous omens.

Chopin's C-sharp minor Scherzo was powerfully turbulent, its wide dynamic range moved from soft caresses of the keys to violent emotional outbursts.

Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7 was breathtaking, the long poetic stillness of the central slow movement giving way to a finale of almost superhuman speed and power.

After intermission Argerich was joined by the Juilliard Quartet in a Schumann Quintet that had all her earmarks of impetuous forward thrust.

Finally, with Nelson Freire, she closed with a two piano version of Ravel's "La Valse" that brought a frenzied half-hour ovation that forced two encores and countless bows even after the hall lights were turned down several times. An evening to remember.

- Dan Davis

      To subscribe to epulse, send the message "subscribe epulse-L"
        to the address:

====Globe And Mail [Toronto] March 28, 1999====
Special to the Globe and Mail
Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Argerich's return displayed grace under pressure

New York -- Carnegie Hall, New York March 25

This spring has been a season of rapprochement and renewal for the great Argentine pianist Martha Argerich, who is back in black after a harrowing 10-year battle with cancer.

Over the past few weeks the raven-haired, brown-eyed, 58-year-old virtuoso has broken several of her self-imposed taboos, to the delight of her hard-core fans. On March 14, a Carnegie Hall audience refused to leave until she gave an encore -- which she did, for the first time in recent memory. Then on Saturday, again at Carnegie Hall, Argerich gave her first New York solo recital in two decades, preceded by the publication in The New York Times of her first official interview since 1980.

Argerich has never felt comfortable with the touring and publicity of a concert pianist's career. "I love to play the piano, but I don't like being a pianist," she once said. She told the Times that she is a "very obsessive person," which is hardly news to those in the know. Argerich is famous for not giving interviews, autographs, encores, or solo recitals. She only plays chamber music and concertos with conductors and musicians who are her personal friends.

Argerich also told the Times of her debilitating depression in the early 1960s, when she just watched television and considered becoming a secretary. But in 1965 she won first prize in the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw, and has been a megastar ever since.

Her personal life has been tempestuous. She had three children by three different men, including Montreal Symphony Orchestra artistic director Charles Dutoit, her husband from 1969-1973. Today she is surrounded by worshipful acolytes, mostly young pianists, who protect her from disturbance and exploitation. Even with all these precautions, she still cancels regularly. Until Argerich actually walks on-stage, you never know if she'll show.

The watershed event in Argerich's adult life was the diagnosis 10 years ago of melanoma, a virulent form of skin cancer. Though she was treated, the disease recurred five years later, spreading to her lymph nodes and lungs. "I was afraid of my own body," she told the Times. "I was afraid of myself for the first time; afraid to be me."

Argerich turned to the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif., where some lung tissue was removed and she was treated with an experimental vaccine. Her cancer is currently in remission, but the prognosis is uncertain.

In gratitude to the institute, Argerich agreed to play Saturday's recital as a benefit. The concert was sold out months ago. Violinist Isaac Stern and pundit William F. Buckley were in their boxes for the event.

Dressed in her trademark plain black gown, clutching a white handkerchief, peeking from behind a thick curtain of pitch black hair, Argerich's pale visage and beatific expression make her classical music's Mona Lisa.

Intimations of mortality seem to have given Argerich new interpretive courage and freedom. She warmed up with Bach's Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826, played with nervous haste in the fast passages and limpid tone in the slower dance movements. In Chopin's dreamy Barcarolle in F-sharp minor, Op. 60, she hit her stride, treating us to seamless jeu perlé. A breathtaking account of Chopin's Scherzo in C-sharp minor, Op. 39, gave Argerich a chance to display phenomenal grace under pressure. Her rapid but unerring shifting from low chords to breezy descending runs earned her the first standing ovation of the evening.

Paradoxically, Argerich seemed to be more uneasy with slow, sentimental, emotionally exposed music, such as the Chopin, than with Prokofiev's devilishly difficult Sonata No. 7 in B-flat major, Op. 83, which followed. Prokofiev's war sonata is the kind of knuckle-busting mind-bender that gets Argerich's juices flowing. In the concluding Precipitato movement, she hammered out the piston-driven 7/8 meter with rhythmic intensity, melding body, mind and piano into one furious machine.

After the intermission, the Juilliard Quartet's gritty first violin and off-pitch cello all but ruined Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44. Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire teamed up with Argerich for Ravel's 1921 two piano arrangement of La Valse. They gave two encores: a Rachmaninov suite for two pianos, and the four-hand arrangement of Ravel's Ma Mere L'Oie. The countless bows only ended when the house lights were turned off and technicians dismantled the piano.

Argerich plays [AB: is scheduled to play] Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Montreal Symphony at Place des Arts, Montreal, on May 23-24; Tel. 514-842-9951.
Web site:


Also, Excerpts from Philip Anson's review of
    the March 16 Prokofiev Concerto
March 16, 2000
The (Toronto) Globe and Mail
Diva plays straight from the heart and the crowd loves it

New York -- And the Philadelphia Orchestra At Carnegie Hall in New York, on Tuesday

Martha Argerich 's reputation as the greatest pianist of her generation was spectacularly confirmed at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday ...

...From the first bars of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, the audience knew that Argerich was staking out new territory. The Prokofiev is an Argerich warhorse (she recorded it twice, and her 1998 recording just won the Grammy for best instrumental soloist with orchestra). But this performance was much deeper and more contemplative than her last run through of it, at Carnegie Hall in October, 1998, with the Montreal Symphony under Charles Dutoit. Instead of being dazzled by grandiose fireworks, we revelled in the warmth of a subterranean fire that Argerich has kept hidden too long.

Of course, the fingers of steel, flawless runs and chiselled staccato were breathtakingly still there. The rhythmically tricky third variation with its accented off-beats was hypnotically precise. But the razzle dazzle was tempered by dreamy digressions, such as the second movement's fourth variation, marked "delicate" and "meditative," that seemed to make time stand still. Where previously Argerich had shone a harsh Soviet spotlight, she now bathed the music in Debussian opalescence. You could have heard a pin drop.

When it was over, she endured five standing ovations before she finally sat down to play an encore. The cream of the cognoscenti audience (including violinists Itzhak Perlman and Kyung-Wha Chung and composer John Corigliano) let out a roar, aware that history was being made.

No one can remember the last time Argerich gave an encore, and she hasn't played solo since 1978 (her last solo recording was made in 1984). The encore, a Scarlatti sonata, was showy and charming, like Horowitz used to play. Now New York can hardly wait for March 25, when Argerich gives her first solo recital in 22 years..."

====Photos by Jeff Friedman - Cyberspatians at Carnegie Hall====
One of several group photos by Jeff Friedman

All Ears, at Carnegie Hall, March 25, 2000, 7:40pm

** Be sure to scroll down there, while waiting for first large photo to load ** at Jeff's photo site, to match names to mugs.

For RecMusic talkers, the always inventive Jeremy Cook separately provided "explanatory comments" on the series of pictures.   [No longer available.]

    Also, a read of The Marmite FAQ might be helpful. newsgroup (Internet forum)====

Opinions from some recordings newsgroup regulars immediately after the concert.

Jeff Friedman                       Read more reports, on one scrolling page
John Harkness
JC   JC #2
Carl Tait - Outstanding report
Bob Reith
Roger Berend
Bevan Davies

====Great Pianists on Record eGroup (another Internet forum)====

Opinions from archives of Great Pianists forum after the concert.

  [Paul Geffen's Great Pianists forum no long exists and were not archived at]

Neil McKelvie, 1 of 2                   Read all messages at eGroup page
Neil McKelvie, 2 of 2
Leslie Gerber
Alan J. Briker
Leslie Gerber
Neil McKelvie
Paul Geffen
Neil McKelvie
Neil McKelvie
Andrys from a kiosk
Neil McKelvie
Sanda Schuldmann
Paul Geffen
Michael Glover
Andrys from home
Paul Geffen
Patrice Mathews
Patrice Mathews

A vivid report by William Hsieh    
    We have very different views on the Barcarolle and
    much of the Prokofiev while both enjoying the concert and then some.
    Hsieh gives us visual detail I'd totally forgotten.

3/25/00 - Benefit Recital - general and music info

With the Juilliard String Quartet and Nelson Freire
Saturday, March 25, 2000 at 8:00 PM (played)

Martha Argerich, Piano
Juilliard String Quartet
    Joel Smirnoff, Violin
    Ronald Copes, Violin
    Samuel Rhodes, Viola
    Joel Krosnick, Cello
Nelson Freire, Piano
1st Half of the concert
Martha Argerich:

      BACH Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826
      CHOPIN Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60
      CHOPIN C# minor Scherzo
      PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

2nd Half of the concert
      SCHUMANN Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44
      RAVEL La Valse for Two Pianos
      RACHMANINOFF 2nd mvmt from Suite No. 2
          for 2 pianos
      Ravel Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes"
          from Ravel's "Ma Mère l'Oye" for four hands

Per the announcement 2/4/00 by Carnegie Hall: the artists donated their services to this event, "the net proceeds of which will benefit the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California. Ms. Argerich was successfully treated for her melanoma at the clinic and the proceeds will go toward melanoma research."

The NY Times Front Page, March 25, day of the recital, carried a substantial interview with Martha Argerich in connection with the fundraiser.

The special benefit reception with Argerich after the recital was a supplemental fundraiser for the John Wayne Cancer Institute.
Benefit Recital coordinator: Larry Perelman at 212-787-2752 or e-mail him

Those interested in supporting the work of the John Wayne Cancer Institute can contact the Institute at (310)-315-6111.
The History of the Institute can be viewed here.

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