Undi­min­ished mi­nors and ma­jors

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

ARG­ERICH/BLOODY DAUGH­TER Di­rected by Stéphanie Arg­erich. Fea­tur­ing Martha Arg­erich, Stephen Ko­vace­vitch, Lyda Chen. Club, IFI, Dublin, 100 min In 1949, at the age of eight, the con­cert pi­anist Martha Arg­erich made her de­but in her na­tive Buenos Aires. She was so good that pres­i­dent Juan Perón ap­pointed her par­ents to diplo­matic posts in the Ar­gen­tine em­bassy in Vi­enna just so that Martha could study with Friedrich Gulda.

By 16, Martha was win­ning Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the Geneva In­ter­na­tional Mu­sic Com­pe­ti­tion and the Fer­ruc­cio Bu­soni In­ter­na­tional Com­pe­ti­tion, within three weeks of each other. At 24, she won the sev­enth In­ter­na­tional Chopin Pi­ano Com­pe­ti­tion in War­saw and be­came a best-sell­ing record­ing artist.

She has, re­put­edly, an artis­tic tem­per­a­ment to match her seis­mic tal­ent. Her two mar­riages did not end well. She can­cels per­for­mances with lit­tle no­tice. She changes pro­grammes.

This re­strained, fond, and of­ten awe-struck por­trait of Arg­erich by her youngest daugh­ter, Stéphanie, is a lovely, heart­felt thing that takes us all around the world: they’re a very in­ter­na­tional fam­ily.

This is not ha­giog­ra­phy, but nor is it warts-and-all con­fes­sional. Fam­ily se­crets – no­tably the teenage sis­ter who sud­denly turned up when Stéphanie was four – are ex­plored. There are in­ter­est­ing ques­tions about ma­ter­nal iden­tity, and how it can both clash and dove­tail with ca­reer and ge­nius.

Some ques­tions do not have easy or sat­is­fac­tory an­swers, es­pe­cially when asked of Martha, who, in com­mon with many great artists, sim­ply can­not find the words to con­vey her in­ti­macy with Chopin or with the in­stru­ment she started to play at the age of three: “I don’t know how to ex­plain my re­la­tion­ship with the pi­ano,” she shrugs.

The direc­tor al­lows her mother to an­swer in an oblique way, as she of­ten does. But the gaps in our knowl­edge only serve to un­der­line her hu­man­ity.

Martha Arg­erich: a tem­per­a­ment to match her tal­ent

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