Martha Argerich and Friends, Live from Lugano 2011
The Liszt Concerto pathétique for two pianos, performed with Lilya Zilberstein, is the best thing on these discs, responding well to the typically wild, dramatic Martha Argerich treatment. Elsewhere in these recitals, given around the time of her 70th birthday last year, she communicates to both audience and her fellow artists an abundance of energy that is, sadly, not always well directed. The sparkle from three of her friends in the outer movements of the Haydn Trio is delightful, as is the sense of fun demonstrated by three others in a suite for three pianos taken from a Shostakovich operetta. But for young players, the Argerich influence is not always a happy one. Anybody playing piano duets with her is likely to come off worse, if only because of her supreme technique. But Cristina Marton, who joins her in the great Mozart F major Duet Sonata, K497, goes further and treats the opening tune of the finale to ludicrous rhythmic distortions. Mozart doesn’t need this kind of ‘help’.
Of Argerich herself, there’s not much to add to what other critics have written. Her refusal ever to be boring is of course highly laudable, but not at the expense of a composer’s express instructions. In the first movement of Ravel’s Concerto in G, for instance, the final 70-bar gallop to the end should begin pianissimo: Argerich turns this into an aggressive fortissimo, obliterating any chance to enjoy the composer’s carefully graded crescendo. And the final pages of La valse degenerate into incoherent roaring – to wild applause.