LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Live from Buenos Aires
WORKS: Schumann: Six Studies in Canon Form; Debussy: En blanc et noir; Bartók: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim (piano), Pedro Manuel Torrejón González, Lev Loftus (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: DG 479 5563
Don’t look to the booklet if you want to know about the music: this issue is clearly focused on the star status of the pianists. There’s undoubtedly an enormous amount of sensitivity and experience in the Schumann, but it becomes tiring to hear so many chords not quite together – something which regular piano duos take years to conquer. Ensemble is better in the more rhythmic fifth study, but elsewhere the seemingly unagreed rubato works against the performance rather than helping it.
Things improve dramatically in the Debussy, where there is far more unanimity, and you can hear two great pianists at work with less distraction. There’s a wide range of tone colour, and the flexibility of tempo is mostly coherent, bringing out the tragedy of the central movement, as well as the virtuoso outpouring of the first, and the wit and fleetness of foot in the third.
There are a few ensemble problems in the Bartók, although Barenboim and Argerich are clearly in the swing of all the complex rhythms, and the first movement is very exciting. But the sound, which has been excellent so far, doesn’t quite sort out the balance with the percussion: higher and louder sounds come through well, but sometimes other instruments are not always completely audible and the all-important timpani are rather dead in tone. There’s a good nocturnal atmosphere in the Lento, and the twists and turns of the final Allegro are greeted with thunderous applause: I suspect that you had to be there.