'... an iconoclast who plays how, when and with whom she wants
on Martha Argerich's new
Bartok and Prokofiev release
In today's pianistic pantheon, the name of Argentinian-born Martha Argerich
ought to be considered virtually synonymous with prodigious virtuosity,
imagination, and unbridled spontaneity. That she is an instinctive player,
rather than a wholly intellectual one, possibly accounts for her playing
being so stimulating. For myself, I would want to own almost any recording
of hers that becomes available. In so many ways, she stands in the musical
world as a phenomenon who makes her own rules, an iconoclast who plays how,
when and with whom she wants. In a discography not especially voluminous,
one recalls in particular her amazing solo and concerted Ravel, Chopin,
Liszt, Rachmaninov, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky.
Argerich previously recorded the Prokofiev Third Concerto in 1967 with
Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic Originally coupled with Ravel's
G major Concerto, that performance, long considered one of the high points
in her discography, is still available [DG 447 438-2, re-packaged
1995 coupled with Gaspard de la nuit]. Prokofiev No 1 and Bartok
No 3 are first commercial ventures for her in this repertory, and, interestingly,
the source is neither DG nor Decca/London but rather EMI.
What is so remarkable about her playing, setting her apart from so many
pianists today, is her ability to to modulate her tone and shade her musical
materials, even at top-level dynamics (other pianists simply clatter). Plenty
of name performers haul off on their Prokofiev and Bartok, tight fisted
all the way. Amid all the palpable virtuosity, Argerich still manages to
elicit a lyrical line. In the slow movement of the Bartok, gorgeously shaped,
one even senses the undercurrent of tragedy.
Charles Dutoit, always competent in his lean, cool accompaniments, is
not nearly so riveting as his superb soloist. One might wish the orchestral
playing to have had more expressive character and colour, as well as sweep
and abandon in the rhapsodic moments of the Bartok. There are, to be sure,
fine passages (the conclusion of the Bartok is especially invigorating),
and Dutoit's brass make a vivid impression. But it's Abbado, with his sharper-edged
support in Argerich's earlier recording of Prokofiev Three [quicker by two
minutes] who's the more compelling conductor - not to mention the silkier
tone of the Berlin Philharmonic strings.
The transparent reproduction is extremely clean. Despite a slightly too
distant orchestra and a somewhat reticent string body balanced against a
fractionally closer piano, the perspective, with its resultant attenuated
bass response, is certainly not unrealistic if one imagines oneself listening
near the back of the auditorium.
Copyright © Igor Kipnis, August
Bartok: Piano Concerto No 3, Sz 119
7'17"/10'45"/6'42"- TT 24'44"
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No 1 in D flat, Op 10
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No 3 in C, Op 26
9'39"/9:'39"/9'47" - TT 29'5"
Martha Argerich, piano
Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Charles Dutoit
Recorded: October 1997
Venue: l'Eglise de St Eustache, Montreal
Executive Producer: Jurg Grand
Producer: David Groves
Balance Engineer: John Dunkerley
Editor: Caroline Haigh
EMI Classics CDC 5 56654 2 DDD stereo. TT - 70:12
Liner notes: Julian Haylock & Annie Dutoit
Booklet photographs: Stephanie Argerich
ORDER THIS CD FROM CROTCHET
Internationally known as a performer on the harpsichord, clavichord,
fortepiano and modern piano (this last as a member of the Kipnis-Kushner
Duo, one piano, four hands), Igor Kipnis has recorded over 80 albums,
55 of them solo, in addition to receiving numerous honours, including six
Grammy nominations, a Deutsche Schallplatten prize, and an honorary doctorate
from Illinois Wesleyan University. Keyboard magazine, in its readers'
polls, has three times named him 'Best Harpsichordist' and twice 'Best Classical
A frequent guest on both television and radio (he has had his own programme
on New York's WQXR), Igor Kipnis has edited music anthologies for
Oxford University Press, and is at present working on a biography of his
singer father, the bass Alexander Kipnis, to be published by Amadeus Press.
He is a faculty member of the Mannes College of Music, where he lectures
on historical piano recordings, and as a performer gives frequent masterclasses
devoted to keyboard instruments.
Igor Kipnis has long been an avid record collector, specializing
in piano and historical performances, and his reviews and articles, many
of which deal with the piano, have appeared in a numerous publications,
including International Piano Quarterly, International Classical
Record Collector, Early Music America, Goldberg,
Audio, Schwann/Opus, FI, Stereophile, Musical
America, Opus, Stereo Review, American Record
Guide, Classical, Chamber Music Magazine, Listen,
Clavier, and The Yale Review.
Visit the Igor Kipnis web site for further biographical information
and an illustrated discography:
...'minor composer,' 'complete musician'...
'In Russia there is only Prokofiev who deserves mention - though on second
thought one might perhaps question whether even he does. He is quite clever
and accomplished, but without much personality or definite convictions,
and is consequently very uncertain of his direction.'
'... he stood out in almost melodramatic relief against the dim, circumambient,
neutral mass of negligible humanity, like a lighthouse in the midst of a
stormy sea. [Bartok] hardly existed as a personality, but his impersonality
was tremendous - he was the living incarnation and embodiment of the spirit
of music. He was pure spirit, in fact, and his frail, intense and delicate
physique gave the impression of something ethereal and disembodied, like
a flame burning in oxygen. No need to inquire, no need to know, the cause
of his death: he consumed himself, burnt himself entirely away in the fire
of his genius ...'
- Cecil Gray (1895-1951, Scottish composer, writer and critic)
: A Survey of Contemporary Music, London 1924 (Prokofiev);
Musical Chairs or Between Two Stools, London 1948 (Bartok)
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