Martha Argerich & Friends
Live from the Lugano Festival 2016
Warner Classics, 2017
The prestigious “Progetto Martha Argerich” took place every summer for fifteen consecutive years in Lugano, where the great Argentine pianist, who is equally famous for her talent and for her aversion to perform alone on stage, plays her instrument surrounded by more or less famous colleagues. The 2016 season was to be the last for the regret of Argerich’s fans and of any music lover as the standard level of the “Progetto” was one of the best imaginable, as this last Live from the Lugano Festival recording proves once again.
Live from the Lugano Festival 2016 offers a selection of works divided into a three disc set. The pieces range from many different musical eras, from the Baroque (with Bach’s Violin Sonata in C minor), to the Classical period (with Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos), to Romanticism (with Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and Brahms’s Horn Trio) and to early and advanced 20th century music (represented by Ravel’s Gaspard and Piano Concerto, Busoni’s Violin Concerto, de Falla’s Two Spanish Dances from La vida breve, Berg’s Kammerkonzert, Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune) and finally to contemporary music (Nisinman’s Hombre Tango).
Argerich plays with the usual, sturdy determination and inspiration that characterizes her. Her admirable introduction to the entire set with Gaspard de la nuit is already something that fix the tone of the entire album. Argerich’s performance of these extremely difficult suite is superb: the silvery sound of the piano seems to liquefy in Ondine, which becomes a true “aquatic” piece, Le gibet is wonderful in the rendition of the tolls of the bell and of the desert setting with the gallows in the distance, and finally the goblin of Scarbo dances grotesquely among Argerich’s fingers.
Gaspard de la nuit is the only work Argerich performs alone, because even we she is the only soloist as in Ravel’s Piano Concerto, she is accompanied by the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Alexander Vedernikov. The most crowded of all the works is Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, where Argerich is joined by seven vocal soloists and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, this time under Diego Fasolis’s baton. Numbers are not a guarantee of an impressive effect, but Beethoven’s work is so finely performed and its glorious finale is so well prepared by all the musical forces that it is breath-taking. More limited but equally remarkable is Bach’s Violin Sonata Argerich plays with violinist Tedi Papavrami, where the delicacy of Argerich’s touch (not only in the calm Largo and Adagio, but even in the two animated Allegro) does not make regret that the original harpsichord has been substituted by a modern piano and the sweet sound of Papavrami’s violin gives to this work a sad and intimistic colour.
Among the most distinguished of Argerich’s “friends”, the name of Renaud Capuçon is the one that stands out better. He performs the beautiful Violin Concerto written by Ferruccio Busoni (again with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana and Vedernikov) as solo violin and then joins hornist David Guerrier and pianist Nicholas Argerich in Brahms’s Horn Concerto and N. Argerich in Berg’s Kammerkonzert. Another remarkable performance, limited to de Falla’s Two Dances only, is that of the two pianists Sergio Tiempo and Karin Lechner, who play with warm and transport these vivacious, extremely “Spanish” pieces.
This is only an overview of Live from the Lugano Festival 2016, but I hope it is enough to give prominence to the fact that this is an outstanding recording. The last thing I would like to point out is that the sound of the three discs is perfect; you can guess only by the atmosphere that they are live recordings if you do not know it before and the removal of noises allows to never break the magical spell of Martha Argerich and her friends.