Argerich, a sixty-year-old native of Argentina, reigns supreme over the feudalistic world of virtuoso pianists. Rivals become mere fans around her, lingering at the door of her dressing room and then skulking away. Her concerts conjure up scenes from another place and time: grown men running down the aisles clutching bouquets, world-renowned musicians pummelling the railings of the upper boxes, jaded critics breaking into foolish smiles. Argerich brings to bear qualities that are seldom contained in one person: she is a pianist of brainteasing technical agility; she is a charismatic woman with an enigmatic reputation; she is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music. This last may be the quality that sets her apart. A lot of pianists play huge double octaves; a lot of pianists photograph well. But few have the unerring naturalness of phrasing that allows them to embody the music rather than interpret it.Intrigued? Here's a little sample of a Prokofiev concerto to get your juices flowing. As some people believe, sorcery may be involved.
In our 13-CD set from Deutsche Grammophon, you can hear Argerich in chamber music from a panoply of composers, along with violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Mischa Maisky. Highlights include many violin and cello sonatas by Beethoven, Stravinsky's Suite Italienne (from "Pulcinella"); Bach's Cello Sonatas Nos. 1-3, BWV1027-1029; live recordings of Chopin's Cello Sonata in G minor, Franck's Violin Sonata in A played on the cello, Debussy's Cello Sonata for Cello in D Minor, and Chopin's Introduction & Polonaise, Op. 3; Shostakovich and Prokofiev cello sonatas; Schumann's Adagio and Allegro in A flat, Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, 5 Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102, and 3 Romances, Op. 94; violin sonatas by Schumann, Bartók, and Janácek; and Messiaen's Theme and Variations for Violin and Piano.