Martha Argerich & Friends with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Ravel et al
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Martha Argerich & Friends
WORKS: Live from Lugano 2016: works by Beethoven, Ravel et al
PERFORMER: Argerich, Angelich, Babayan, Tiempo, Kovacevich et al (piano); Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
CATALOGUE NO: 90295831653

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This is the last of Warner’s annual gleanings from the Lugano Festival at which Martha Argerich presides – and definitely the most exciting. She may be 76, but her playing has lost none of its phenomenal precision and brilliance; it’s a rare pleasure to hear her playing solo in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, which she has never before committed to disc. In every shared track she induces her ‘friends’ – including the excellent Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana – to raise their game to a level with hers.

In Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit Argerich is like a cat, velvet pawed until the moment for a predatory pounce. I have never heard ‘Ondine’ delivered with such delicate poetry, nor ‘Le gibet’ with such musing languor. Her ‘Scarbo’ starts with a monochrome rumble before the bright explosion: in her hands, this work is all about colour. As is Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, which starts in an iridescent cloud before journeying through an atmospherically jazz-inflected terrain; when she finally lets rip at top speed, it’s still with immaculate articulation. Beethoven’s Choral Fantasyis thrillingly dramatic; aided by fine soloists, Argerich gives full weight to all its moods and modes, from the improvisational opening to the tenderly singing main theme.

With Sergei Babayan on second piano, the Mozart D major Sonata’s opening Allegroemerges parade-ground smart, while its Andantehas exquisite poise; and in Debussy’s two-piano arrangement of L’après-midi d’un faune, she and her long-time partner Stephen Kovacevich find a magically silky tone.

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.