From the archives
Andrew Mcgregor revels in a new box of live recordings by pianist Martha Argerich and friends
Martha Argerich has a complicated relationship with recording, but found a perfect solution to her issues with microphones in her 15-year project at the Lugano Festival, surrounding herself on stage with family, friends and protégées, and allowing her record labels to eavesdrop. The Lugano Recordings (Warner 9029594897; 22 CDS) has an enviable back catalogue to plunder, and excludes any that don’t include Argerich herself. Mozart first, an Argerich favourite: the D minor Concerto K466, then Grieg’s two piano version of the Sonata K545 with Piotr Anderszewski – a treasurable partnership, as is Mozart K381 with Maria João Pires. The Beethoven collaborations bring more frequent Lugano partners: Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, and cellist Mischa Maisky, whose sometimes extreme Romanticism is intelligently tempered by Argerich in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Chopin’s E minor Piano Concerto is breathtaking, and the Introduction & Polonaise brilliante with Gautier Capuçon is stunning, as is their account of Schumann’s Adagio & Allegro. Argerich’s Schumann, never routine, is in some ways the heart of the set, but don’t overlook two piano versions of Liszt’s Les Préludes with Daniel Rivera, or Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances with Nelson Goerner, so richly coloured and broadly expressive you won’t miss the orchestra. Not everything is perfectly recorded: the Bartók Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion with Stephen Kovacevich has distant sound, but their Debussy En blanc et noir is a highlight, and the Carnival of the Animals from 2013 is irrepressibly witty.
There are gems from when Argerich and friends convened for the last time in 2016. Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit for the first time in 40 years, as mercurial as ever; those 75- year-old fingers reunited with Kovacevich for Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faun, seductively persuasive; and best of all Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, new to Argerich’s discography and with an uninhibited improvisatory solo. This is Argerich at her elemental best.
Side by side in Lugano: Martha Argerich and Stephen Kovacevich
Andrew Mcgregor is the presenter ofRadio 3’s Record Review, broadcast each Saturday morning from 9am until 12.15pm