Bach, Prokofiev, Chopin, Bart—k, Ginastera & Scarlatti

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Bartok,Chopin,Ginastera & Scarlatti,Prokofiev
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Martha Argerich Live at the Concertgebouw 1978-9
WORKS: Bach: Partita in C minor, BWV 826, ; Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 7; Chopin: Scherzo No. 3, ; works by Bartók, Ginastera & Scarlatti
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56975 2
This is terrific playing – in both the modern and the original sense of the word. It isn’t just that Martha Argerich has some of the strongest fingers in the business (she can raise a fortissimo like a full Mahlerian brass section); the shaping intellect is always in control, even when the intensity is white-hot. You may not like everything she does – Chopin’s C sharp minor Scherzo is almost unrelentingly forceful, the cascading quavers in the contrasting trio section brittle rather than conventionally flowing – but it’s too compelling to be lightly dismissed. Hear Argerich in repertoire which really suits her, like Bartók’s Sonata or Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata, and the authority is overwhelming. This is playing which tolerates no competition. In the Bartók, Argerich releases all the piano’s percussive power, but the energy is controlled, with moments of surprising delicacy to throw the stomping and pounding into relief.

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As for the Prokofiev, Argerich can’t match the wit and phantasmal moodiness of Mikhail Pletnev’s outstanding recording – but I doubt that troubles her for a moment. Hers is a performance which burns and blisters; even the quietest passages in the first movement are heavy with suppressed menace, and the finale is an astonishing display of cumulative excitement, apparently ceasing only when the piano can’t give any more. Argerich’s Bach C minor Partita is very different from the thoughtful concentration of Richard Goode – hard as tempered steel, diamond-like in its sharpness and clarity. The six movements flow together with almost Prokofievian momentum (the final ‘Capriccio’ follows without a break, as though the energy of the preceding ‘Rondeaux’ had spilled out of its frame). Granted, the ‘Sarabande’ is very slow – too slow to dance, and much too slow for today’s scholarly ears; the unscholarly among us will simply enjoy the respite.