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Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

Martha Argerich
and Nelson Friere,
a musical miracle

Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire,
a musical miracle

Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Paris
Tuesday February 16th 1999

Prokofiev: Symphony No 1 in D, Op 25 (Classical)
Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances, Op 45
Mozart: Sonata in D for four hands, K 381
Lutoslawski: Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Liszt: Reminiscences de Don Juan

Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire to give a two-piano recital? 'Pont de l'Alma,' a man shouts on his mobile, 'yes, I've got two seats at a 1,000 francs [US$150 / £100] - each, of course!' Music-lovers walk up and down before the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, placards in hand, looking for a ticket to buy. Wherever these pianists play on this tour, it's the same: yesterday in Toulouse, tonight in Paris, tomorrow in Munich, Brussels, Lisbon.

Why does such a mixed audience, younger than usual, come to the Theatre des Champs-Elysees? Why does one go to a concert? To sacrifice ourselves to a social rite ? No, that time has long since passed. One goes to concert, one listens to music, because it helps to 'live'...

We are here to share an emotion, to take part in an adventure, to follow a steep path watched by danger. How one can imagine what an audience must have felt going to listen to Maria Callas, whose weaknesses even were beautiful.

We won’t bother to describe how these two South Americans played. We have no need to introduce Martha Argerich. Nor should we have to introduce Nelson Freire, 'the most jealously guarded secret of the piano today,' according to the American critic John Ardoin. But when these two sit in front of or next to each other, a miracle happens. A third pianist is born, more marvellous, more vibrant, more moving than simply the two of them put together. An artist entirely of music, of passion, of humour, of tenderness, an artist of blinding intensity, whose generosity, absence of false modesty, and in-corporeal virtuosity shows us the pieces for what they are. Eric Dahan of Liberation is right - they're 'the last ones to light the fire.'

Alain Lompech
- © Le Monde Paris, February 19th 1999
adapted by kind permission
Translation © Isabelle Battioni 1999

Le Monde


Martha Argerich

makes a rare London appearance next week

Hear her play
Chopin’s First Piano Concerto in E minor
with the
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
under Emmanuel Krivine
at the Barbican Centre
Wednesday 24th March, 7.30 pm


'I'm a natural pianist, and music does not speak for me unless it comes naturally. Such a fuss is made about interpreters these days. I find this deplace. I don't feel that being a pianist is important. The composer is always of greater importance... There have been times in my life, you know, when I stopped playing altogether. At those moments I felt very lonely, and I couldn't cope, so I didn't play, or at best I would prepare things in three weeks ... my nerves were awful. Sometimes the piano seems to take me over. I suppose I hate it as much as I love it. It depends on so much. You cannot have anything one way without the other.'

-- from an interview with Martha Argerich
© Ates Orga 1978, International Music Guide 79