DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Martha Argerich, Live at Verbier Festival (2009)

No previous disc recording of the Grieg Cello Sonata has affected me as much as this glorious performance of Maisky and Argerich.

Published on September 29, 2009

Martha Argerich, Live at Verbier Festival (2009)

Martha Argerich, Live at Verbier Festival (2009)

Program: BACH: Partita No. 2 in C minor; MOZART: Andante and Five Variations in G Major for piano 4 hands; GRIEG: Sonata for Cello and Piano in A minor; BARTOK: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1; LUTOSLAWSKI: Variations on a Theme of Paganini (two-pianos); SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Quintet in G minor Op. 57
Performers: Martha Argerich, piano; Yri Bashmet; Joshua Bell; Renaud Capucon; Stephen Kovacevich; Henning Kraggerud; Mischa Maisky; Gabriela Montero
Studio: Ideale Audience/Medici Arts 3078928  [Release date: Sept. 29, 09] [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: PCM stereo
No region code
No extras
Length: 125 minutes
Rating: *****

Argentine-born Martha Argerich – to my mind one of the finest classical pianists performing today – loves to participate in chamber music and hosts two acclaimed music festivals each year in Switzerland. One is in Lugano in Italian Switzerland and the Verbier Festival is in French Switzerland. She also runs the Beppu Festival in Japan and the International Piano Competiion and Festival Martha Argerich in Buenos Aires. These hi-def videos were shot in both the 2007 and 2008 seasons at the Verbier Festival. The performers are all of equal standing to Ms. Argerich, and the image quality is superb – nearly as good as Blu-ray.  The 48K PCM stereo is also crystalline and silky in the high end and sounds better via ProLogic II for surround effect than Dolby or DTS 5.1 would.

The programming of her festivals always seems to be interesting and a bit off the beaten track. The Bach Partita makes a fine opening, with Argerich moving swiftly from one to another of the six movements without even the five-second pause of most recordings.  The short Mozart Andante and Variazoni is a delightful little change of page, with the two performers cozying it up at the single keyboard.  Mischa Maisky is a most energetic and intense cellist, who provokes some concern about his bushy grey hair getting in the way of his fingering of the high end of his cello.  No previous disc recording of the Grieg Cello Sonata has affected me as much as this glorious performance of Maisky and Argerich.

The second half of the concert opens with the rough and tumble First Violin Sonata by Bartok.  Renaud Capucon is the frantically involved soloist in this sharp-edged three-movement sonata. The two pianos are nested with one another in typical fashion for the Lutoslawski Variations, but the innovative TV director has a number of shots placing the two soloists’ keyboards up against one another in a V formation so that you can see both pianists at work. The closing Shostakovich Quintet is a fitting conclusion to this wonderful program. It’s one of my favorite chamber works, especially the spectacular Scherzo movement. All five performers tear into the work with gusto, and the result demonstrates how much more of a musical experience a video with high definition and clean wide-range sound can provide of a live musical performance vs. even the best audio-only recording.

 – John Sunier 

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