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 Favourites, Shelf Discovery: Martha Argerich

江苏体彩11选5走势图Martha ArgerichIf you are anything like me, you pride yourself in the orderly nature of your classical collection, so it was a 'happy little accident' that its temporary disorder thanks to working from 江苏体彩11选5走势图 managed to juxtapose two albums recorded 53 years apart but by the same pianist, the Argentinian Martha Argerich - albums which (almost) bookend her quite remarkable career and throw each other into sharp relief.

Her debut recital, recorded in 1960 and released by DG the following year was a landmark event. In an era where the old masters such as Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz dominated the concert-hall and where old masters of a different type dominated classical record covers, the stark black-and-white appearance of a woman from the new world must have been a gust of fresh air for many a record-buyer and seemed to be a harbinger for the future.

Naturally a debut recital of an up-and-coming virtuoso would include Chopin and Liszt: the Third Scherzo of Chopin is dazzling and Liszt's Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody a riot, although for me Dinu Lipatti still has the edge for singing quality in Chopin's Barcarolle. More surprising given her later repertoire is her fiery yet introspective performance of Brahms's Op. 79 Rhapsodies - making one wish that she had turned her fingers to the Second Concerto, a piece she studied with her teacher Friedrich Gulda but never performed. (She subsequently explained this neglect by claiming a lack of attraction to both the music and the man). The most unusual pieces on the recital are also the most interesting and provide the greatest clues to Argerich's later career. Already in Prokofiev's Toccata Op. 11 we hear the phenomenal virtuosity required for the Russian's Third Concerto, and in Ravel's Jeux d'eau we hear the mastery of the musical line required for the Frenchman's G major concerto, which was perhaps her most famous concerto coupling on disc, made with Claudio Abbado in 1967. Forty-six years later, the two collaborated once more on two Mozart concertos, one of Abbado's final recordings before his death in 2014.

Argerich made her professional debut aged eight playing the Mozart D minor Concerto, so her recording of the piece here is an interpretation a mere 64 years in the marination, and although Mozart concertos may seem at the other end of the musical spectrum from the bravura display in 1960 there is a common thread of intensity of performance in both discs that has run throughout Argerich's career. Her approach is matched by Orchestra Mozart, who while not a 'period' orchestra attempt to marry modern instruments to period sensibility; arguably the greatest contribution that the HIP (Historically-Informed Performance) movement has made is this change in sensibility when performing classical era works, removing the powdered wigs to reveal the humanity behind these great works of art. Both of these very different concertos undoubtedly fall into that category and benefit greatly from this approach, with particular highlights being the sublime pathos in the minor-key episode of the closing movement of the otherwise exuberant C major K503 and the anxious yet fundamentally determined cadenza of the C minor K466, both played with the same intensity that Argerich displayed 53 years earlier.

So two discs, divided by time and musical style but united in sensibility, each helping to illuminate Martha Argerich from a different angle, and resulting in a greater sense of appreciation of this truly unique artist than would be possible by encountering these recordings on their own. So long as I can resist the urge to bring order unto chaos I eagerly await what new juxtapositions can be discovered amongst my collection...

Chopin - Brahms - Liszt - Ravel - Prokofiev

Martha Argerich (piano)

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Martha Argerich (piano), Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado

Available Format: CD

Martha Argerich (piano), Berliner Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC