Martha Argerich – Music for Two Pianos – TCHAIKOVSKY: Nutcracker Suite; RACHMANINOFF: Suite No. 2; Six Morceaux; BRAHMS: Sonata in F minor; St. Anthony Variations; PROKOFIEV: “Classical” Symphony; LUTOSLAWSKI: Variations on a Theme – EMI Classics (2)

by | Sep 28, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Martha Argerich – Music for Two Pianos – TCHAIKOVSKY: Nutcracker Suite; RACHMANINOFF: Suite No. 2; Six Morceaux for piano 4 hands; BRAHMS: Sonata in F minor; St. Anthony Variations; PROKOFIEV: “Classical” Symphony No. 1; LUTOSLAWSKI: Variations on a Theme of Paganini – Martha Argerich, p. and: Mirabela Dina, Gabriela Montero, Lilya Zilberstein, Polina Leschenko, Yefim Bronfman, Giorgia Tomassi – EMI Classics (2 CDs for price of 1) 69:41 & 76:38 *****:

These are more sparkling live performances from the Lugano Festival founded by Argerich, from 2002 thru 2005. Martha Argerich is probably my personal favorite pianist; she has a wide range of repertory, and in addition to many solo recordings, she has given special attention to concerto performance as well as a special penchant for two-piano works. She has collaborated with many other pianists – including the mostly younger ones just beginning their careers, as in this collection.

A good companion two-piano collection to this one would be Duo-Piano Extravaganza, which Argerich recorded in 1995 for Philips, and again offered at a 2-for-1 price. I believe the only duplication on that one is the closing brief Lutoslawski selection here.  The ultra-colorful Rachmaninoff Second Suite for Two Pianos has been a favorite of Argerich, and she has recorded it twice in the past with Nelson Freire and once with Alexandre Rabinovitch. She also previously recorded the Nutcracker Suite for two pianos, with Nicolas Economou on DGG – he also prepared the transcription.

 
For me the transcription by Rikuya Terashima of the Prokofiev First Symphony is one of the prime delights of this collection. Argerich previously recorded it with Polina Leschenko on an Avanti SACD we have reviewed.  Prokofiev had in mind a very classical-period work such as Haydn might have penned had he lived in the 20th century, so it fits perfectly to the double pianos.  It’s almost as if Haydn had given us a two-piano sonata.

The Rachmaninoff Suites for Two Pianos are sort of showpieces and not his greatest compositions, but Argerich and Montero (whose unusual improvisation CD we reviewed) make it shine with spectacular effect.  Brahms wrote his St. Anthony Variations for two pianos before he arranged it for orchestra, so this is not the typical transcription by someone else of a more familiar orchestral work. At 39 minutes it is the longest work on these two CDs and in no way takes a back seat to the symphonic version.

The seven works program is well-planned, the recording quality is excellent, and the audience applause adds to the excitement of the event.  Two-piano fans will surely want to add this one to their collection.

TrackList:
Disc 1:

1. I. Ouverture miniature:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu)
2. Marche:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu), II. Danses caractérisque
3. Danse de la Fée Dragée:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu), II. Danses caractérisque
4. Danse russe Trepak:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu), II. Danses caractérisque
5. Danse Arabe:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu), II. Danses caractérisque
6. Danse Chinoise:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu), II. Danses caractérisque
7. Danse Mirlitons:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu), II. Danses caractérisque
8. III. Danse des Fleurs:- The Nutcracker, Suite from the Ballet (transcribed for two pianos by Nicolas Economu)
9. I. Introduction (Alla marcia):- Suite No. 2 in C Op. 17
10. II. Valse (Presto):- Suite No. 2 in C Op. 17
11. III. Romance (Andantino):- Suite No. 2 in C Op. 17
12. IV. Tarentelle (Presto):- Suite No. 2 in C Op. 17
13. No. 1, Barcarolle (G minor):- 6 Morceaux Op. 11
14. No. 2, Scherzo (D major):- 6 Morceaux Op. 11
15. No. 3, Thème russe (B minor):- 6 Morceaux Op. 11
16. No. 4, Valse (A major):- 6 Morceaux Op. 11
17. No. 5, Romance (C minor):- 6 Morceaux Op. 11
18. No. 6, Slava (C major):- 6 Morceaux Op. 11

Disc 2:
1. Allegro non troppo:- Sonata in F minor for 2 pianos Op.34b
2. Andante, un poco adagio:- Sonata in F minor for 2 pianos Op.34b
3. Scherzo (Allegro):- Sonata in F minor for 2 pianos Op.34b
4. Finale (Poco sostenuto – Allegro non troppo – Presto non troppo):- Sonata in F minor for 2 pianos Op.34b
5. Theme – ‘St Anthony Choral’. Andante:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
6. Variation I. Andante con moto:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
7. Variation II. Vivace:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
8. Variation III. Con moto:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
9. Variation IV. Andante:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
10. Variation V. Poco presto:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
11. Variation VI. Vivace:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
12. Variation VII. Grazioso:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
13. Variation VIII. Poco presto:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b
14. Finale. Andante:- Variations on a theme by Haydn for 2 Pianos Op.56b

 – John Sunier

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