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Martha Argerich Vol. 3 = BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Major; SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen; Toccata in C Major; LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D-flat Major; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major – Martha Argerich, p./ Cologne Radio Sym. Orch./ Carl Melles – Doremi

Martha Argerich Vol. 3 = BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3; SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen, Op. 15; Toccata in C Major, Op. 7; LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D-flat Major; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26 – Martha Argerich, p./ Cologne Radio Sym. Orch./ Carl Melles – Doremi DHR-8030, 77:00 [Distr. by Allegro] *****:

The youthful Martha Argerich (b. 1941), already the spectacular firebrand of the keyboard, makes her presence known in recitals 1957-1965 from Cologne and Bolzano in music for which she has always displayed large sympathies.  She engages (Cologne, 8 September 1960) the last of the Beethoven Op. 10 sonatas, that in D Major (1798), which had provided for the composer – new to Vienna – a healthy vehicle for his expressive powers. Much in the manner of another titan, Sviatoslav Richter, she embraces the dynamism of the opening Presto, which tests the keyboard of Beethoven’s day by reaching upwards to a high F-sharp and downward to a low G that only the modern instrument allows. The heart of the sonata, its Largo e mesto, represents even for Beethoven a new anguish, to which Argerich devotes expansive contemplation. Almost as startling, her approach to the Menuetto belies whatever dance character it may contain and opts for an impelled demon. The last movement Rondo exploits a three-note motif that might parody a similar figure in mid-second movement. Argerich makes quick work of this Allegro, which she tosses off in the manner of a brilliant improvisation, touched by a note of equivocal mirth.

The long-familiar Schumann 1838 Kinderszenen from the same Cologne recital certainly advances our concept of “children’s scenes” to mean an adult’s full appreciation for a past childhood, perhaps “Paradise Lost.”  Argerich etches each of the character pieces, inflecting them with a pathos that can easily move to a bravura sense of digital elation, especially when Schumann insists on his Florestan’s D Major.  The ‘martial’ aspects of the piece, like the “Important Event” in A Major  – surrounded as they are by fairy dust – retain that sense of “transport” so essential to Schumann and his “nostalgia for the dream,” revealed in the No. 7 Traeumerei in A Major. Eusebius has his moments, too, often in E Minor repose, the Child Falling Asleep a hypnotic case in point. The tiger’s catch on this disc, the 1832 Schumann C Major Toccata, has eluded prior transfers to disc, although collectors have hoarded the Argerich performances from Edinburgh and Buenos Aires. The potent dazzler exploits Bach, certainly, but with a grand sweep and exhibitionist revel of broken chords and whirling figures from which a melody arises almost in spite of the emotional eddies that surround it. Argerich generates a compulsive thrust into the chords that rivals Horowitz and Cziffra for sheer clarity and ferocity of execution.

The Liszt 1847 D-flat Major Hungarian Rhapsody performance (Bolzano, September 1957) from the sixteen-year-old Argerich dates from her winning the Busoni Competition. Those who own the DGG “debut” recital will compare this fiendish version of Liszt quite favorably, perhaps even prefer it. It projects clean delicacy of line bolstered by a glistening keyboard patina and firm grasp of the Hungarian ethos. The cumulative momentum proves absolutely shattering, a rival for my own favorites from Janis and Cziffra.

For the Prokofiev C Major Concerto – made famous in the collaboration between Argerich and Abbado for DGG – Argerich joins the less familiar Carl Melles (1926-2004), an Austrian conductor associated with Salzburg and Bayreuth.  From Cologne 10 December 1965 we hear a tigress who had already won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, exulting in the quick tempos and pulverizing staccatos that had made the composer such a bête noire in his own touring days. A suave lightness of touch no less contributes to the brisk irony of the occasion, those intimations of updated Haydn, now informed by canny and percussive orchestral effects. The angular lyricism of the piece, too, has a suave exponent in Argerich, who can shape a cantabile line as well as those other Prokofiev acolytes: Janis, Mitropoulos, Kapell, Bolet, and Bachauer. The coda to the first movement Allegro sets a toccata pace as a law unto itself.  No less rhapsodically volatile, the Tema con variazioni moves to the final Allegro, where passionate sweep collides with digital demonism of the first order. Wonderful woodwind work complements the Argerich glissandos and pearly parlando statements of the lulling theme that will soon explode into a last ritornello and coda that becomes Prometheus Unbound – listen for yourself!

An important reissue, this Doremi Argerich release, for Argerich devotees and collectors of fine pianism alike.

—Gary Lemco

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