Ravel, Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12

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COMPOSERS: Ravel,Schumann
WORKS: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich (piano)
Late in time, behold them come: yet another release of a live Argerich concert from the Seventies. The previous EMI disc had flashes of brilliance – in her Prokofiev and Ginastera – with less spectacular sprinklings of Chopin and Bach. This has a more substantial feel, with the Schumann and Ravel working well as a programme (Schumann must surely be the only German composer whose music truly complements the subtlest of French works). She has recorded all three pieces in the studio, yet there is a particular magic to this performance of the marvellous and too rarely played Op. 12 Fantasiestücke. Her ‘Abends’ enters by stealth, ‘Warum?’ could not be gentler, the ‘Fabel’ glitters, and her ‘Aufschwung’ is powered by a tigerish energy from within. She pulls back the rhythms of both this and the ‘Traumes Wirren’ giving them a wonderfully sprung tension, and a sense of power in reserve. Despite the potentially clangorous acoustic, she always achieves an impressive depth of sound in the boldest, most fortissimo reaches.


‘In der Nacht’, with its peculiarly ambivalent harmonies and wandering melodic line provides the link into Ravel’s Sonatine. With exquisite rubato, she teeters on the brink of showmanship in this nonchalant masterpiece, and rattles through the finale with thrilling aplomb. Gaspard de la nuit is the real test here, and a work she has made her own. The great climax of ‘Ondine’ is an eruption of elemental proportions. Again, in ‘Le gibet’, as darkly demonic as one could expect from this pianist, it is the only-just-tangible rubato on the hypnotic repeated tone that compels, overriding an equally persistent cougher in the audience. Pogorelich’s Gaspard may be more scintillating, but with a most imposing egotism, while Argerich’s own 1987 version is flawlessly recorded, but I would keep this performance for its special brand of nervy poetry.