Given that Martha Argerich’s legendary status increases with every
solo appearance she doesn’t make, pianophiles will leap avidly
upon such concerto or chamber collaborations as she is willing
to give us. There can be no doubt here about the range of colour
she provides, her refined poetry and her almost mind-boggling
vitality. Furthermore, she does all this without ever hogging
the limelight. Agreement between the two artists is total.
the same …
know from Stravinsky’s recordings of the original “Pulcinella”
ballet, as well as his recording of the violin version of the
“Suite italienne” with Samuel Dushkin, that he liked this music
to go with brisk, no-nonsense but un-hectic tempi in the faster
movements, and insisted that the slower ones should be expressive
against the backdrop of a firm rhythmic pulse. Maisky and Argerich
might well have added their own names to those of Stravinsky
and Piatigorsky as arrangers. Not that they have actually changed
any notes – I presume – but because they have seemingly stripped
the music down and reconstructed it according to their own image.
Extreme rubatos, expressive nudges on single notes, magical,
Debussy-like sonorities from the pianist. It’s fascinating to
hear the music emerge completely new, as though a Picasso black-and-white
drawing had been coloured by Monet. But it’s not Stravinsky.
the other works I have no comparisons and have to rely on my
instincts. Late Prokofiev can seem bland compared with his earlier
works. I suspect this piece would sound less bland if treated
with the same intensity but in a more forthright, unvarnished
manner. The perfumed, romantic approach makes Prokofievsound
like a minor French salon composer. The way the finale theme
sidles in, for example, reminds us that the rhythm if not the
notes are similar to the finale of the Franck Violin Sonata.
the start of the Shostakovich the gentle phrasing of the cello
over rippling, dappled piano figuration rather reminded me of
Fauré, not the sort of comparison normally evoked by Shostakovich.
The highly poetic treatment of the second theme is self-communing
in a rather narcissistic way – from both players – and this
too evokes twilight romanticism rather than a bleak Russian
landscape. The furious outburst of the second movement is terrific,
yet wherever possible it shifts emphasis to speak of luscious
enjoyment rather than terror. Thus warmed up, Shostakovich sounds
strangely similar to Respighi.
Largo is perhaps more “traditional” in approach. Maisky for
once concentrates on long lines rather than exquisitely manicured
short ones and the tension built up is palpable. Yet at the
end, Argerich’s chords seem to speak of consolation, something
which Shostakovich’s bleak world normally excludes. The earlier
stages of the finale have their grotesque contours elegantly
face-lifted but the end is terrific.
an encore we have a Prokofiev waltz given in the style of Kreisler
playing “Schön Rosmarin”.
fans of these artists, and of great piano playing per se,
this issue is self-recommending. Those who don’t actually like
Stravinsky, Prokofiev or Shostakovich may think it all absolutely
lovely and wonder why this music doesn’t usually sound half
so nice. It is not, I think, a disc to buy just for the composers
themselves. Out of fairness I should point out that the disc
reviewed – it is not new – by Colin Clarke who marvelled
at the players’ artistry as much as I did but did not feel the
need to call into question their interpretative approach.
by Colin Clarke