Symphony No. 6 (arr. piano four hands)*; Piano Sonata No. 17 ‘Tempest’
Theodosia Ntokou, *Martha Argerich (piano)
Warner Classics 9029516403 65:37 mins
Martha Argerich has mentored Greek virtuoso Theodosia Ntokou for over a decade now, and on the evidence of this engaging performance of former Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung editor Selmar Bagge’s piano duet arrangement of the PastoralSymphony, they have been learning from each other. The key here is Ntokou’s dramatically poised, Classically aware, emotionally supple, refreshingly unhurried reading of the Tempest Sonata. While most pianists make the outer movements conform to a Sturm und Drang style, Ntokou reminds us that Beethoven was one of music’s supreme thinkers, as she subtly articulates the music’s structural narrative rather than coming over all moody and ‘tempestuous’ at the slightest provocation. As a result, the sublime central Adagio is experienced as a vital part of the music’s organisational fabric, rather than a mere sonic buffer zone between two high-tension soundscapes.
Likewise, the reading of the Pastoral Symphony here is the polar opposite of impulsive or spur-of-the-moment. Argerich is as engagingly spontaneous and pianistically responsive as ever, yet here she plays with exquisite refinement, as though distilling her interpretative essence to its essentials. Ntokou counterbalances Argerich’s inspired pianism with captivating flair, textural acuity and fine-graded tonal matching.