Bartok, Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 3; Piano Concerto No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Bartok,Prokofiev
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 3; Piano Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich (piano)Montreal SO/Charles Dutoit
There’s so much right about this CD, marking Argerich’s long-awaited return to the studio, that it seems churlish to pick holes in it, but the recording never seems to convey any real power in the climaxes, and right from the first chords of the Prokofiev First Concerto there’s a lack of weight and focus. But Argerich’s playing is magical, with total control of an astonishing range of tone colours. It’s a pity that one has to strain to hear her properly in the slow middle section of the piece. The kaleidoscopic structure of Prokofiev’s Third Concerto is illuminated by Dutoit’s expert accompaniment and Argerich’s sure touch, though there was more fire in her DG version with Abbado. In the Bartók, the effortless legato and the inflections of the simple opening melody command immediate respect, but this performance turns out to be a strange mixture of spontaneity and playing it by the book. The lightness and neatness which suited Prokofiev don’t sit easily with Bartók’s rawer Hungarian qualities, and, especially in the slow movement, there’s a lack of incisiveness in the wind, and the strings are far too cool. Turning to the old Anda/Fricsay version, even though the orchestral playing isn’t technically as good, there’s real passion, and the conviction of pianist and conductor shine through the rather dry recording. Martin Cotton