Martha Argerich & Friends

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Brahms,Chopin,Gershwin/Grainger,Granados,Korngold,Liszt,Schumann and Stravinsky
ALBUM TITLE: Live from Lugano 2010
WORKS: Music by Bartók, Brahms, Chopin, Gershwin/Grainger, Granados, Korngold, Liszt, Schumann and Stravinsky
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich, Nicholas Angelich, Stephen Kovacevich, (piano), Renaud Capuçon, Alissa Margulis (violin), Gautier Capuçon, Mark Drobinsky, Natalia Margulis, Jorge Bosso (cello); Orchestra of Italian Switzerland etc


It’s the way of the world, and true in music as in anything else, that lesser names sell on the back of great ones. In that context it’s fair to point out that Martha Argerich herself, in her un-selfseeking way, only performs for about half the total duration of these three CDs, and doesn’t appear on the third one at all. And while her assorted friends and colleagues are self-evidently superb musicians, her own playing, just as self-evidently, is in a different dimension.

That said, the sustained quality of music-making on display here ensures that the collective result is something much more than a high-powered musical love-in. Two performances stand out. Although Argerich must have played Chopin’s E minor Piano Concerto countless times, her approach is as fresh as ever, and she brings to the music a sense of unexaggerated surrounding immensity in the way that only great artists can. The second movement’s lyrical flights have a crystalline shimmer that mesmerises the ear; Argerich’s head-tossing way with the finale’s main theme, too, keeps any risk of blandness at arm’s length. Bartók’s Sonata for Two pianos and Percussion features Argerich and Stephen Kovacevich in formidable form: yes, it’s all a bit heady and quick, but the articulation and control are so superb that the work’s magisterial power truly comes across. 

Other chamber music offerings include bicentenary tributes to Schumann, plus a number of curiosities and rarities of in-and-out quality. Of three assorted string quintets, each impressively played by an Argerich-less line-up, those by Korngold and Granados appeal more than Schnittke’s dirge-like counterpart. And there’s an engaging party piece in Grainger’s two-piano Fantasy on Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, delivered with suitable panache by Gabriela Montero and Alexander Gurning.


Malcolm Hayes