Martha Argerich & Friends Live from Lugano 2009

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Bloch,Chopin,Falla,Glinka,Liszt,Mendelssohn,Rachmaninov & Ravel,Schumann
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Chamber music by Bartók, Bloch, Chopin, Falla, Glinka, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Rachmaninov & Ravel
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich, Khatia Buniatishvili, Lilya Zilberstein, Sergio Tiempo, Christina Marton, Polina Leschenko (piano), Renaud Capuçon, Dora Schwarzberg, Alissa Margulis (violin), Nora Romanoff-Schwarzberg, Lida Chen (viola), Renaud Capuçon, Mark Drobinsky (cello), Enrico Fagone (bass); Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Alexander Vedernikov
CATALOGUE NO: 607 3672

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Martha Argerich’s festival with friends and former pupils in Lugano has become an annual event since its foundation in 2002. The 2009 Festival, as enshrined in the live performances on these three discs, seems to have given more space to unfamiliar repertoire than in previous years, such as the rarely-encountered Mendelssohn Piano Sextet, which despite its misleadingly high opus number is yet another work of genius from his mid-teens.

Here Khatia Buniatishvili is the pianist, and the multinational ensemble really makes you feel what a delicious exercise of youthful mastery it is. Mendelssohn provides another high point when Argerich and pianist Cristina Marton perform the Overture and Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a piano duet, taking the main part of the Overture at a simply hair-raising pace that well deserves the final storm of applause.

Headlong tempos seem to be catching – Polina Leschenko sets such a cracking pace in the first movement of Glinka’s E flat Sextet that her colleagues have to race to catch up, yet they project utter note-perfect confidence in doing so, and in the process burnish up the attractions of what can seem a rather dutiful exercise in sonata style.

Two-piano duos are another theme: Argerich and Mauricio Vallina give a rollicking account of Liszt’s Reminiscences de Don Juan in its less-familiar two-piano guise, while Sergio Tiempo and Karin Lechner present the most evocatively orchestral Ravel Rhapsodie espagnole I’ve ever heard emanate from four hands.

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Two other highlights: Argerich’s commanding interpretation of the solo part in Falla’s Noches en los jardines de España; and the way that Renaud Capuçon, partnered by Buniatishvili, makes Bartók’s Second Violin Sonata sound like a series of fluid pirouettes on the outer edges of gypsy virtuosity. As in all the performances, the players display a spontaneity and sense of enjoyment one hears too rarely in some of this repertoire. Unmissable. Calum MacDonald