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Martha Argerich & Friends - Live from Lugano 2015
rec. 10-27 July 2015 Auditorio Stelio Molo, RSI, Lugano
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 628549 [3 CDs: 68:55 + 69:45 + 79:57]

Chamber music aficionados look forward to the annual performances organized by pianist Martha Argerich for her Lugano festival. This most recent collection continues the high standards of its predecessors. These are almost always good performances, and often inspired ones. The music is centered around the basic European classics, but with some surprises.

One surprise is the Brahms Horn Trio, Op. 40, but with a viola instead of the horn. When Brahms republished his 1865 work in 1891, he authorized substituting viola or cello. I had never heard this version, and had naively imagined that its primary purpose was to expand the market for a popular work. I had also wondered why anyone would want to hear this music shorn of its glorious horn part. In fact, the alternative instrumentation turns Op. 40 into a very different, but no less appealing work. Much of the tension in the original version comes from the opposition of violin and horn, which have such different sounds, but also fundamental differences in articulation. In the 1891 version, violin and viola seem like playful partners, rather than competing representatives from rival musical families. The viola version of the trio makes a wonderful transformation, adding unexpected intimacy to passages which the horn turns into public declamations.

There is more Brahms, including a spirited and sweet-toned Scherzo from the F.A.E Sonata. The Clarinet Trio, Op. 114 offers impassioned playing by an all-star cast, although the first movement Allegro seems rather lugubrious.

Other chamber works are Joaquin Turina’s Piano Trio No. 2, whose fervent impressionism is sustained by the Margulis family trio. Argerich and violinist Géza Hosszu-Legocky play Bartok’s irresistible Romanian Folk Dances with aplomb.

The Piano Quintet of Ferdinand Ries was exhumed for its 200th anniversary. Ries adopts the postures of passionate questing and heroic defiance that we associate with his teacher, Beethoven. It may be derivative, but I am not sure we should care that Ries so often resembles his teacher. It is a grand sound, and the players perform the quintet like a lost masterpiece.

The only orchestral piece is Luis Bacalav’s work featuring two pianos, Porteńa (Latitud 36°36’30”). The title refers to a female from Buenos Aires, presumably Argerich. She and Eduardo Hubert play its many moods expressively and enthusiastically. Bacalav is a composer of film music, and this piece is tuneful and showy. Many will love it for its soulfulness and energy, like Gershwin with a Latin twist. Perhaps we could give Rhapsody in Blue a rest.

The Live from Lugano series revels in the sound of multiple pianists, and this 2015 version honors that tradition in six works. Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein offer a smooth version of Schumann’s Six Canonic Etudes, in the two-piano version by Debussy. It was the centenary of Debussy’s own En blanc et noir, which receives a clear and brilliant performance by Argerich and Stephan Kovacevich. Schubert opened his Variations D813 with some dour opening minutes, which not even Argerich and Alexander Mogilevsky can overcome. But after the third variation, moments of charm and excitement prevail. Poulenc’s 1953 Sonata for two pianos is an enormously appealing work; Sergio Tiempo and Karen Lechner are alternatively spirited and beguiling.

If two pianists are not enough, we have two pieces for three pianos, both arrangements by Carlo Maria Griguoli. Philip Glass’s Suite from Les enfants terribles is light, uncluttered, and perhaps a little superficial. The massed impact of thirty fingers is highly effective. Finally, Alberto Ginastera’s Estancia Dances is even more thrilling, sacrificing the color of the original for a sometimes brutal simplicity.

With a collection this wide-ranging, most listeners will understandably find a piece or two of lesser interest. However, the best are really outstanding, with many performances to treasure.

Richard Kraus

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Trio in E flat, Op. 40 for viola, violin and piano [29:03]
Nathan Braude (viola), Ilya Gringolts (violin), Alexander Mogilevsky (piano)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Six Canonic Etudes, Op. 56 (1845) (arr. Claude Debussy for 2 pianos) [16:15]
Martha Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein (pianos)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Variations, Op. 35 D813 [1824] [17:26]
Martha Argerich (piano) and Alexander Mogilevsky (piano)
Johannes Brahms
Scherzo from F-A-E Sonata (1853) [6:05]
Mayu Kishima (violin) and Akane Sakai (piano)
Johannes Brahms
Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114 (1891) [26:52]
Paul Meyer (clarinet), Gautier Capuçon (cello), Nicholas Angelich (piano).
Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)
Piano Quintet in B minor, op 74 (1815) [21:55]
Audrey Baranov (violin), Lyda Chen (violin), Jing Zhao (cello), Enrico Fagone (double bass), Lilya Zilberstein (piano)
Joaquin Turina (1882-1949)
Piano Trio No. 2 in B minor, Op. 76 (1933) [14:29]
Alissa Margulis (violin), Natalia Margulis (cello), Jura Margulis (piano)
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56 (1915) [6:24]
Géza Hosszu-Legocky (violin), and Martha Argerich (piano)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
En blanc et noir (1915) 15”15]
Martha Argerich (piano), Stephan Kovacevich (piano)
Luis Bacalov (b. 1933)
Porteńa (Latitud 36°36’30”) [20:19]
Martha Argerich (piano) and Eduardo Hubert (piano), Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, Alexander Vedernikov (conductor)
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Sonata for 2 pianos (1953) [20:06)
Sergio Tiempo (piano) and Karen Lechner (piano)
Philip Glass (b. 1937)
Suite from Les enfants terribles (arr. For 3 pianos) (2005) [12:06]
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
Dances from Estancia, Op. 8a (transcr. C. M. Griguoli for 3 pianos) (1941) [10:04]
Giorgia Tomassi (piano), Carlo Maria Griguoli (piano), and Alessandro Stella (piano)



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