Over the years, Martha Argerich has shared the concert platform and the
studio with many pianists, most notably with her compatriot Nelson Freire.
Her collaborations have also included artists of a younger generation, among
them Gabriela Montero, Alexander Gurning, Alejandro Petrasso and Lilya
Zilberstein. This disc is a live recording from a charity performance in
Livorno, the home town of another of her protégés, Gabriele
Baldocci who is associated with the ‘Martha Argerich Presents’
On the evidence of this CD, they make a great team; even if you have
other recordings of these works - and even if Argerich herself is playing on
them - this is a worthwhile purchase. As so often with this pianist, the
live situation brings out the very best in her and this performance is no
exception. Baldocci matches her for brio and panache. The playing sparkles
throughout and there is a real feeling of conversation between two artists
fully engaged with what the other is doing.
The Mozart sonata receives a typically full-blooded performance. You
are reminded right at the start that D major is the key of some of
Mozart’s grandest works. The performers are sensitive to
Mozart’s changes of mood throughout and there are many subtleties. The
fine version of the well-matched Lupu and Perahia is poised and classical in
its approach but I am happy to also have the present CD’s playful
interplay with its sharply etched ornaments and extremely lively finale. A
small downside is that there are frequent reminders of the live audience in
the second movement.
Shostakovich composed his Concertino for two pianos for himself and
his then-student son Maxim to play together. In spite of the portentous
opening, reminiscent of that of the second movement of Beethoven’s
Fourth Piano Concerto, this work feels like a not entirely serious showpiece
with a characteristically manic conclusion. It is as if Shostakovich were
sending himself up. Argerich, who has also recorded the piece with
Zilberstein, and Baldocci play it for all it is worth. The ensemble is
Rachmaninov’s first suite for two pianos turns up less in
recordings than the more classical and sonata-like second. The performers
respond well to the specific moods of the movements, which illustrate poems
by Lermontov, Byron, Tjutcev and Chomjakov. The duo brings the required
virtuosity to the florid writing for piano, particularly in the final
movement’s bell effects.
Argerich and Baldocci give one of the best versions on record of the
coruscating piano writing and extreme contrasts of Scaramouche
rhythms of the outer movements are precise, the Brasileira
very danceable samba. The unusually slow Moderé
- about a
quarter longer than Coombs’ and Pizarro’s account on Hyperion -
provides many opportunities for conversational interplay.
Diaghilev’s reaction to hearing Ravel’s La Valse
(as a piano duet) was that it is "not a ballet, it's a portrait of ballet"
is understandable in the context of what he wanted. With our sophisticated
modern understanding of, and penchant for, ironic metaphor, we are perhaps
in a better position to appreciate the work, even if we accept Ravel’s
denial that it had anything to do with the contemporary political situation
or a “struggle between life and death”.
All that aside, we hear on this CD a massive account of this
sometimes terrifying work, so different from the Valse Nobles et
. Martha Argerich has also recorded it with Nelson Freire
and Sergio Tiempo but this version can easily stand comparison with those
This a well-contrasted programme of some of the best works in the
two-piano repertoire given sparkling performances and I urge you to hear it.