Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Martha Argerich & friends

"You get the feeling that Martha Argerich eats piano music for breakfast" marveled the classical music announcer this a.m. as he prepared to unleash a recording to mark the birthday of the great Argentinian virtuoso. New Yorker music critic Alex Ross wrote a profile of Argerich back in 2001 (later collected in The Rest Is Noise). Among his musings:
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.

9 comments:

  1. There are lots of technically proficient (and even attractive)virtuosos these days,but like the article says, genius is something different altogether. Argerich is still larger than life, and has more in common with Maria Callas and Glenn Gould than she does with her peers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I get the feeling that after a performance like the one in the clip above, the piano is more worn out than Martha. She strikes the keys so deliberately, and with such command and intensity that it seems she may be more energized than winded by the end. I just imagine smoke emanating from the guts of the piano, perhaps along with a tiny white flag.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree, Cabaret! Her talents are well-known but what's so inspiring is her desire for privacy and seeming lack of interest in fame. I read that she thought live performances were "lonely." Fiona Apple must have taken notes...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jeeze I need to really listen to her. i just read her wikipedia, she has that interesting unassuming,mysterious,humble quality to her that so many showboat modern day musicians lack.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Not to slight Ms. Argerich, but I'm very fond of Mischa Maisky's playing, and the Franck sonata is very good. I prefer him to Yo Yo Ma.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am in love with anyone who plays the piano well. I have always wanted to play myself and have decided as of recent to take lessons. As I am not that young I have no hopes in being as amazing as Martha Argerich, but I shall enjoy just having the experience.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for all of your perceptive (and colorful) comments... I have just gotten back to my hotel from the Blog World convention after taking the wrong bus and walking all over creation ... I mean Manhattan. Guess who is playing on the radio now ... Argerich! This time in a Chopin concerto. Just what I needed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sorry to hear about your misadventure. The same thing happened to us in DC, but a friendly cab driver not only got us to our destination, he gave us a little tour including the Lincoln Memorial. We concede, however, that 4 out of 10 NYC cab drivers have to be led by the hand to find a destination, and 1 out of them will manage to get lost (expensively) anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  9. That's one of the most astonishing pieces of music video ever! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete