Beethoven, Mozart: Trio in B flat, Op. 11; Piano Quartet in G minor, K478

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Mozart
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Trio in B flat, Op. 11; Piano Quartet in G minor, K478
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich, Evgheny Brakhman (piano), Marek Denemark (clarinet), Dora Schwarzberg (violin), Nora Romanoff-Schwarzberg (viola), Mark Drobinsky (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57506 2
Martha Argerich’s latest recordings, taken live from the 2002 Lugano Festival, demonstrate again some of the strategies this incomparable piano soloist now employs to avoid a soloist’s existence. In public she plays only concertos and chamber music; it has been a long while since recitals figured on her schedule. For Argerich fans this career choice causes both regret – who does not ache to hear her solo again? – and satisfaction, because, as these discs prove, the unique brilliance, plasticity and warm-heartedness of her artistry inspires dynamic group music-making.

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These Lugano recitals were part of the ongoing ‘Martha Argerich Project’. The first-among-equals principle in operation therein works most powerfully in the performance of the Brahms two-piano Sonata – the predecessor version of Brahms’s F minor Piano Quintet – by Argerich and the Russian Zilberstein, another magisterial virtuoso. In a thrilling way I’ve not heard equalled, they fill with dramatic vitality lines which can sound clotted when tackled by less agile duos.

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This is the highlight of these new issues. Elsewhere Argerich’s splendid commitment to young talent is in evidence – in the Mendelssohn Trio, where her glorious spontaneity is incompletely paralleled by her French collaborators, energetically though they partner her, and in the early Beethoven Trio, where group enthusiasm makes unfailingly lively what can be a slightly tedious piece. Other recordings of these works offer a more even assortment of talent, a steadier musical unfolding (such as the Stern-Rose-Istomin Mendelssohn). This is definitely the case with the Lugano K478: the Russian Evgheny Brakhman, one of the four ‘Martha Argerich Presents’ young pianists recently allotted an EMI recital disc each, joins a group of sympathetic but occasionally ill-tuned string players for a crisply unfolded, strongly articulated reading that lacks the full measure of Mozart’s storm-and-sunshine masterpiece as conveyed in the classic Clifford Curzon/Amadeus Quartet account (but see also Richard Wigmore’s review above). At 47 minutes the Beethoven-Mozart CD is seriously short measure. But even with these qualifications, both discs make for exhilarating listening. Max Loppert