Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:


SCHUMANN (1810-56) Fantasiestücke, Op. 12.
Maurice RAVEL
(1875-1937) Sonatine. Gaspard de la nuit.
Martha Argerich (piano).
EMI CDC5 57101-2 [DDD] [51.30]
  AmazonUK   AmazonUS

This is the third of a series of live performances given in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam by Martha Argerich (there is also a live recital on CDC5 56975-2 and a concerto disc on CDC5 56974-2). The concerts date from 1978 and 1979 and offer the record collector the opportunity to compare and contrast Argerich the recitalist at that time with Argerich the accompanist now (DG are in the process of issuing a Schumann disc with the cellist Mischa Maisky on 469 524-2).

It is as important to forget the relatively low playing time of the present disc as it is to forget the occasional splatter of wrong notes. Freed from the studio, Argerich gives her imagination absolutely full rein. Her strong affinity with Schumann is evident throughout her account of the Fantasiestücke, in which she demonstrates a near miraculous ability to capture the essence of each of the individual movements. What's more, Schumann's unpredictable mood shifts and extreme sense of fantasy seem to strike a chord with Argerich's own persona: the sections of 'Fabel', for example, are unapologetically contrasted. Schumann's ornamentation comes across as if improvised. Perhaps the greatest achievement of this performance is the last movement, in which Argerich paces Schumann's cumulative, obsessive repetitions to perfection.

Argerich seems to elevate the stature of Ravel's diminutive Sonatine. She accords the second movement, 'Mouvement de menuet', an egg-shell delicacy: in fact throughout her lightened tone is entirely appropriate. But it is Gaspard that finds her at her most inspired. Perhaps what is most awe-inspiring about this is that no matter how tough the going gets pianistically (and it gets pretty tough), the texture is never over-burdened so that the level of detail that comes across is nothing short of revelatory. Argerich's tonal variety is one of her strongest points, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in 'Le gibet', that enormous test of keyboard control. Despite some obtrusive audience noise at the beginning of 'Scarbo', Argerich ensures that this is a jaw-dropping experience, right from the gestural sweep of the earlier passages. A salutary reminder of just what Argerich was capable of in her then-chosen guise as keyboard giant.

Colin Clarke

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: