I am a 20-year-old piano major who was told to listen to this CD by one of my professors when I was trying to decide what to study as a major four-hands work. Since I am on a "student budget," I decided to listen to the college library's copy of this CD before buying, but immediately after I had listened to the Bartók, I knew that I had to have this CD.
Argerich belongs to a very elite group of pianists--Gieseking, Arrau, Serkin, and Backhaus are honoured to have her as their peer. Despite the daunting scale of the task, Freire and Kovacevich prove that they are worthy of sharing the stage on this CD, and the chemistry between them and Argerich (which several other reviewers have mentioned as well) is truly amazing. The Mozart is presented with clarity, beauty, emotion, and the irresistable charm that Argerich brings to so many of her Classical Period interpretations. The Rachmaninoff is a powerful, thrilling performance, and the Bartók is dark, deep, and carefully crafted without losing the sense of spontaneity.
But while the other reviewers have already focused on these points, I am truly baffled that few have mentioned Argerich and Freire's electrifying performance of Lutoslawski's Paganini Variations. The piece is based on the same Paganini capriccio (Op 1, No 24 in a minor) that Rachmaninoff and Brahms have used, but unlike with Rachmaninoff or Brahms, Lutoslawski follows the same overall structure as the original Paganini capriccio, to great effect. Lutoslawski shows great understanding of the piano and the use of off-beat sforzandi, doubled octaves, and glissandi at the climax create an amazing effect which Argerich and Freire fully capture here. The balance is impeccable, even during the near impossible middle section where Argerich plays a rumbling succession of fifths and fourths in rapid sixteenth-notes. The tempo choices, use of dynamics, and changes in colour and texture are right-on. After hearing two other recordings of this piece (by Nosowska and Halska), I can say with confidence that this recording blows the others out of the water. It is the definitive recording of this modern masterpiece.
I can't afford to buy many CDs, but this is one CD that I would pay twice the price for. I only wish that, a few months from now, my duet partner and I are able to play that piece half as well as Argerich and Freire do here.