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Martha Argerich and Friends - A Concert from the Munich Klaviersommer 1982
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
3 Nouvelles etudes, Op. posth. [5:06]
Scherzo No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 31 [9:00]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Suite No. 2, Op. 17 [20:58]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
La valse
(version for 2 pianos) [11:46]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for Piano 4 Hands in D Major, K. 381 [13:58]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73 [10:15]
Martha Argerich (piano) (Rachmaninov, Ravel, Mozart, Schumann)
Nelson Freire (piano) (Debussy, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Ravel)
Nicolas Economou (piano) (Mozart)
Mischa Maisky (cello) (Schumann)
rec. live, Munich Klaviersommer, 1982
Video Director: Janos Darvas
DVD Format: DVD 9/NTSC; Sound Format: PCM Stereo; Picture Format: 4:3
Region Code 0
Booklet Notes: English, French, German
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 671 [85:00]

‘Primus inter pares’ is the phrase which best sums up Argentinean pianist Martha Argerich’s approach today. She prefers collegiate music-making with her friends, rather than assuming the role of soloist. Concertos and chamber music are now the norm. This way of performing originated from the time of this 1982 Münchner Klaviersommer piano festival. Twenty years later, in 2002, she established her own festival in Lugano, which still exists today. She continues to make music not only with renowned artists but also with up-and-coming young ones. The fruits of these joint endeavours from Lugano are readily enjoyed on the EMI Classics sets which have been put out over the last few years. It comes as something of a surprise when reminded that it was as long ago as 1983 that she last released a solo album.
Her friendship with the Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire goes back to 1959 when they met at the Vienna Music Academy. It was the Schumann Concerto that brought them together; Argerich played the piano reduction of the orchestral accompaniment to Freire’s solo lead. Since then, they have appeared in concert many times and made several distinguished recordings together. Likewise with the Latvian cellist Mischa Maisky, together they here play the Schumann Fantasy Pieces op. 73. They have subsequently collaborated on a number of very fine recordings on the DG and EMI Classics labels.
The present DVD begins with solo contributions from Nelson Freire. Looking very much the ‘medallion man’ - but without the medallion - he performs Debussy and Chopin. Like Argerich, Freire is blessed with a magnificent technique. Whilst I enjoyed the impressionistic wash of colour, light and shade in the Debussy selection, the Chopin was disappointing. There are not many versions of the B flat minor Scherzo played with such velocity and brilliance. Yet, it is all too much superficial gloss for my liking, with a failure to penetrate beneath the surface. I was not moved in any way.
For me, the highlight of the whole programme came with the duo renditions of the Rachmaninov Suite No. 2 and the Ravel La Valse. Here both Argerich and Freire are well and truly in their comfort zones. They make sympathetic partners, blending well into an organic unity, with a true affinity for this music. Argerich has always excelled in two-piano works. What impresses me is the dazzling virtuosity and scintillating fingerwork on display. This is not a matter of skin-deep virtuosity. Their musicality enables them to penetrate beneath the surface of the music, and deliver results that are profound and intellectually stimulating. They achieve a wide dynamic range, from minute pianissimos to thundering fortissimos and showcase all the colours of the orchestra.
I must confess to never having heard the Mozart Piano Sonata for four hands in D major K 381 before. It is a charming piece, on a much smaller scale than K.448, also in D major, but for two pianos. Here it is played with delicacy and graceful simplicity. It is poignant to see Argerich’s partner in this work, the Cypriot-born pianist and composer Nicolas Economou, one of the instigators of this festival. Tragically, he died in a car accident in 1993, aged only forty.
The three Schumann Fantasy Pieces (Fantasiestucke) op. 73, have had plenty of mileage from Maisky and Argerich, having been commercially recorded twice for both EMI Classics and DG. I have never heard the EMI version, but the DG (469524) is very fine, and much more desirable than the version presented here. Due to injudicious microphone placement, this live event is beset with instrumental imbalance with consequent loss of detail in the piano part. Things end in a flourish with Maisky, in his enthusiasm, catching the microphone. It is interesting to note that what we hear is very much a ‘family’ affair, with Freire page-turning for Argerich, much the same as Maisky does for her in the Rachmaninov and Ravel.
This visual record appears very dated today. The camera-work is at times quite amateurish, with many ill-judged decisions on placement. Shots of backs are numerous. The dimly-lit auditorium confers an element of drabness and gloom. I found it quite irritating that after both the Ravel and Mozart selections, you are taken back to the main menu. This ruins viewing continuity. Yet, when all is said and done, the music-making, especially in the piano duo items, is of a very high standard. The artistic value of these performances deems them worthy of preservation.
Stephen Greenbank