Martha Argerich and
Friends - Live from Lugano 2011 
see end of review for track listing
Martha Argerich (piano), Dora Schwarzberg (violin), Lucia Hall (violin), Lida Chen (viola), Gautier Capuçon (cello)
rec. June 2011, Grand Hôtel Villa Castagnola (Mozart), Palazzo del Congressi, Ludano (Ravel) and Auditorio Stello Molo.
EMI CLASSICS 6 44701 2 [3 CDs: 73:05 + 78:23 + 74:12]  

The tenth edition of Martha Argerich’s Lugano festival took place in 2011, and reviews of the 2009 and 2010 festival recordings can also be found. She and her friends and colleagues rehearsed and performed a remarkably wide variety of works both well-known and new discoveries over a 20-day period, with the emphasis on chamber music.
This is one of those box sets of works where comparison with other versions of the pieces recorded is something of an irrelevance. There is such a feeling of light and joy in the performances that each seems newly-minted, and if there is music here which you already know and love in alternative versions, hesitate not in rediscovering them played here in Lugano. The recorded sound is excellent throughout, audiences are well behaved - no doubt captivated by every note - and Martha Argerich’s own appearances are in the majority. Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 8 is played with refinement and elegant panache by Renaud Capuçon, with Argerich’s accompaniment equally expressive and with admirable touch and restraint. Mozart’s Sonata K497 for piano four-hands is a real gift, played with affectionate warmth and tremendous rhythmic lift by Martha Argerich and Cristina Marton. Argerich is absent for Haydn’s Piano Trio in C Hob. XV:27, but the crisp and lively playing from this trio is wholly in the spirit of the other performances, and with beautiful phrasing and marvellous dynamic observation this is a recording second to none - the syncopations in the Finale are great fun. CD 1 closes with an adaptation of Schumann’s wonderful Fantasiestücke Op. 73, played on cello instead of clarinet by Gautier Capuçon and accompanied by Argerich, who alas is a little too recessed in the balance in this case. This is a very fine performance, but the cello really is too far forward for comfort when in full cry.
CD 2, and if you don’t know it the opening of Franz Liszt’s Concerto pathétique for two pianos will blow you out of your chair. This is a feast of pianistic extravagance, and you can feel Martha Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein relishing every moment. Bewitchingly expressive playing takes over in the devotional central movement, and the doom-laden marcia funebre in the finale is perfectly weighed, though still with a smile. If you are yet to be converted to the cause of Liszt, this may be your Road to Damascus moment. Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque No. 2 is another superb work; dedicated to the memory of Tchaikovsky and full of passionate lament and played with full conviction in this recording, which is nicely balanced and with nice separation between the two string players. Shostakovich’s Cheryomushki is a madcap operetta, and this is completely madcap playing by our three pianists. Arranged highly effectively for three pianos by one of the players, Carlo Maria Griguoli, this is tremendous fun, full of tunes which will stick inside your head for ages, and will instantly cure you of any blues.
CD 3 opens with Ravel’s La Valse in a marvellous version for two pianos played by Martha Argerich and Sergio Tiempo. The opening is gorgeously amorphous and atmospheric, the build-up of madness inexorable and full of fantasy. Martha Argerich’s early renown came in part from her 1967 recording of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, now part of a ‘Complete Concertos’ collection from Deutsche Grammophon (see review). Timing between these versions are as close as makes no difference, and if the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana isn’t quite as plush, present and detailed as Claudio Abbado’s Berlin Philharmonic it still has plenty of character. The first movement has even more jazzy swing to the rhythms and the bass drum in the last movement is great. This is very much Argerich’s performance, and her playing is remarkably crisp and punchy, the crucial bass notes resoundingly effective. The beautiful central movement is taken a little quicker from the start, but is full of poetic inflection. I prefer it a little straighter and more understated as it appears in the 1967 recording, but Argerich’s latest thoughts on the work are never less than fascinating and always movingly rhapsodic. The final Presto is more dramatic and less breezy than the older recording. This is a life-enhancing performance and a vibrant partner to any of the others Argerich has made.
The whole collection finishes with a work which will be new to most of us, The Piano Quintet Op. 34 by Juliusz Zarębski. A student at the Vienna Conservatory and a friend of Liszt, his early death at the age of 31 meant his name has remained unrecognised. This is high Romantic music, but is certainly not over the top in terms of musical material, possessing great transparency of instrumentation and one of the main discoveries from this collection. There is plenty of thematic clarity through imitative writing, and not too many laboured transitional passages or tedious chromatic sequences in the passionate opening Allegro. The following Adagio is a remarkable movement, with a ‘rapt lyricism’ which only needs inclusion in a Big Movie to make it a global hit. The Scherzo has some of the nervy urgency of something by Shostakovich, and the Finale is full of marvels both taut and restrained, and tumultuously energetic and inventive.
Once again, this is a collection of recordings which everyone should have, whether you are a seasoned fan of Martha Argerich or a classical collecting newbie. There is something special about superbly performed concert performances on record, and this is as close as anyone is likely to get to that elusive live ‘vibe’ in recordings through your Hi-Fi. High-fives all round.
Dominy Clements
Live vibe in Hi-Fi: a terrific collection. 

Track listing

CD 1
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 8 in G major, Op. 30 No. 3 [18:43]
Renaud Capuçon (violin), Martha Argerich (piano)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for Piano duet in F major, K497 [27:19]
Cristina Marton (piano), Martha Argerich (piano)
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trio No. 43 in C Major, Hob.XV:27 [16:18]
Alissa Margulis (violin), Julian Steckel (cello)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 [10:32]
Gautier Capuçon (cello), Martha Argerich (piano)

CD 2
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Concerto pathétique in E minor for two pianos, S258 [18:35]
Martha Argerich (piano), Lilya Zilberstein (piano)
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor, Op. post. [43:17]
Denis Kozhukhin (piano), Renaud Capuçon (violin), Yan Levionnois (cello)
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Moscow-Cheryomushki, Op. 105 [16:23]
arr. by Andrew Cornall and transcribed for 3 pianos by C.M. Griguoli
Giorgia Tomassi (piano), Carlo Maria Griguoli (piano), Alessandro Stella (piano)
CD 3
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
La Valse (for 2 pianos) [12:16]
Martha Argerich (piano), Sergio Tiempo (piano)
Piano Concerto in G major [21:43]
Martha Argerich (piano)
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Jacek Kaspszyk
Juliusz ZAR ĘBSKI (1854-1885)
Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 34 [40:08]