Martha Argerich is one of my favorite pianists among those currently playing. I've been told by a pianist friend that her playing irritates him: she has such technical competency but the liberties she takes with music bother him. I don't care. Her music is human. Humans breathe and so should piano music. It should capture the way humans phrase and the pauses they take as they move through speech. And all that Argerich does wonderfully.
I have a number of CDs by Argerich: playing Chopin (no surprise), Mozart piano concertos (outstanding), Bartok, etc. This album, a piano concerto by Shostakovich, a fairly straightforward single-movement concertino for two pianos (he wrote it to be played by his son and him), and a rich, lovely piano quintet (with her friend and colleague Mischa Maisky on cello, is brilliant in both senses of the word 'brilliant.' The pieces are performed at a very high level of technical competence and they burst with joy. This is tricky, funny, extremely listenable music, played by a masterful pianist.
At the same time that I acquired the above album, I also picked up the two-CD album of Vladimir Ashkenazy playing Shostakovich's preludes and fugues. The inspiration for these glorious creations was apparently Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, a set of preludes and fugues running through the chromatic scale. All told, there are 48 pieces, 24 sets all in different keys. This is not the first or the last time that a technical challenge has spurred a composer to excel himself but this challenge seems to have helped Shostakovich get out of the box of late Soviet programmatic music, which was confining him. The pieces are played exquisitely by Richter, who combines musical sophistication with enough rigor and muscle to save the music from becoming a kind of high quality romantic mush. It's a revelation to me to hear this side of Shostakovich. It's not at all the syncopated, quirky early modernist stuff I'm used to from the composer --it's austere, almost classical, yet infused with the same sensitivity to tonality, harmony and syncopation that I respect and glory in when I hear Shostakovich. This album is truly worth getting.