Martha Argerich Vol. 4 = CHOPIN: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58; Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 55, No. 2; Etude in A-flat Major, Op. 10, No. 10; Etude in C Major, Op. 10, No. 1; Etude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 10, No. 4; Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60; Preludes, Op. 28: Nos. 19-24; Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 15, No. 1; Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53; Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52 – Martha Argerich, piano – Doremi DHR-8036, 80:09 (5/12/15) [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
Doremi adds another powerful installment to the legacy of (then youthful) Argentine virtuoso Martha Argerich (b. 1941), here an all-Chopin recital culled from various concert recitals, 1955-1965. Included among the sixteen selections we have an etude performed by the fourteen-year-old Argerich from Buenos Aires, 1955. The lion’s share of the performances derives from the three stages of the 1965 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, held in February and March.
Argerich’s rendition of the 1844 B Minor Sonata (10 March 1965) which opens the program offers a particularly virile, fluid Allegro maestoso, which, given the repeat, assumes a broadly lyrical expansion. More than once within the interplay of sixteenth runs and brief sequences, we can hear elements in the D Major (sostenuto) second subject we might attribute to Schumann. The Argerich bass line proves consistently compelling, over which she imposes long, serpentine arioso. The easy fluency of the ensuing Scherzo conveys drama as well as canonic interplay. The introspective Largo has the delicacy and mesmeric buoyancy of spirit in its middle, E Major, section we recall from masters like Lipatti and Rubinstein. After such sculptured bel canto, the percussive opening eight bars of the Finale have us reeling. The ensuing rondo in B Minor surges in the manner of an oceanic tempest, galloping to light up an apocalypse. The extended ritornelli and cascades to the coda prove as relentless as they are heroic.
If the Nocturne in E-flat Major (10 March 1965) resonates with erotic wistfulness, the C Minor Nocturne from two weeks prior (22 February 1965) sighs with tesknota, tragic recollection, whose middle section provides a ring of fire. Both stages one and two of the Chopin Competition required the composer’ etudes, the first of which, the Herculean A-flat Major, Op. 10, No. 10 (5 March 1965), calls for finesse in the course of chromatic arpeggios and ungainly accents. The C Minor, Op. 10, No. 1 asks for monster stretches taken at daunting speed, a large hand having to maintain the illusion of legato. From the same stage one (22 February 1965), Argerich takes the C-sharp Minor Etude at an athletic clip, transferring the sixteenth note melodic contour to each hand without a heartbeat. While the 1955 sound of the fourteen-year-old in Bueos Aires suffers compromise, the lightning at the keyboard still echoes in pungent testimony of a youthful titan.
Of the two late Chopin colossi, the 1845 Barcarolle (5 March 1965) elegantly testifies to a poetic temperament girded in digital bronze. After the opening thrust, Argerich lets the melody emerge from a welter of thirds, sixths, and trills, imposing a disarming intimacy on the initial impulse until it rises into a storm of passion. The A Major theme becomes playful, a song set upon Venetian waters – dolce sfogato – that the composer never visited but perhaps felt a kinship through his knowledge of Mendelssohn’s keyboard efforts. Ever the work of enigmatic, transient beauty, it relishes Argerich’s inflamed treatment. The large 1842 F Minor Ballade, with its dense texture and audacious, far-reaching harmonic modulations in counterpoint, finds Argerich (23 January 1960) on the threshold of her DGG recording career, a secure sculptor of sound capable of a wide palette of color and emotional extremes. The “fate” motif dominates this rendition, presented in an iron, manic grip. Blake never wrote a companion piece to “The Tyger” that embraced its distaff incarnation, but here it is.
Very close microphone placement lets us hear the pedals squeak in the E-flat Major Prelude, the first of the last six of Op. 28 (22 February 1965), whose song leads directly to the dire fate of the C Minor. The double notes of the B-flat Major ring in potent carillon fashion. The G Minor Argerich turns into a frenzy by Rachmaninov, which is likely what that composer did, anyway. Limpid streams in F Major flow in gossamer sixteenths, only to deliver us into the Abyss, the D Minor Prelude. The ostinato pattern demands a twelfth in stretch, but Argerich makes it tremble and sing a terrible dirge at once. The final three Ds leave, in the wake of the fermata, our heads and hands in a palsy. The so-called “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat Major from stage one sounds like an invading Polish army, fully confident of inevitable victory. Argerich sets a tone and ferocious linear progression that refuses to relent, even for the various galloping and lyrical episodes that will eventually resurge to triumph.
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