Martha Argerich brings her remarkable playing to another fantastic gathering at Lugano, appearing with some of her regular partners as well as some new ones. The first disc opens with a Mozart 4-hand sonata played with Maria Joao Pires, which has a superb gleam; the Brahms Variations on the St Anthony chorale that open the second disc manage to top it, even, in her superb tonal shading with Nicholas Angelich, a pianist whose mercurial style and pedalling quite closely match her own. The feeling of plasticity in the sound is fantastic, there is such a sense of breathing in the music, of ebb and flow. The Smetana items for eight hands at two pianos are brilliant, as are some variations by Martucci that I have never heard of, but sound a bit like Brahms. Argerich does not feature here ... Nor is she in Dvorak's second Piano Quartet, where the brilliant Polina Leschenko takes over, or Medtner's Piano Quintet, a big Romantic work where Lilya Zilberstein sets the pace. Another highlight of the set is Mahler's early Piano Quartet, a one-movement work that seems poised between Franck and Schumann, penned when he was still a teenager (also with Zilberstein). It is a fantastic piece ... Outstanding performances of Schumann and Prokofiev with Argerich and the Capucon brothers in turn would in themselves be worth buying the discs for. And a performance of Mozart's Concerto No. 25 is also a marvel - it would be hard to overstate the legendary feel of everything on these discs. And what a great photo on the box, too - did anyone ever look this beautiful at her age? Completely inspiring ...
My main reason for buying this inexpensive set was the amazing performance of the Prokofiev violin sonata that opens disc 3. IMHO, of the greatest performances of ANYTHING I've ever heard. However, last night I took the set round to a friend and we ended up listening to the whole lot!
The performances are superb and the presence of the audience gives an added frisson that I very much doubt could be replicated in a studio. (Applause is included which, for this listener, was no problem since I often wanted to join in!) The recorded sound is superb with clarity being to the fore.
Highlights? Well, all of it really. As mentioned by another reviewer, the Mozart concerto is wonderful and the Smetana 'Sonata' (4 pianos, 8 hands!) is a glorious piece of fun.
This set has made me keen to check out Argerich's other sets.
I have long been a fan, but hearing her live is something I can only remember twice - once in a Lucerne festival after her recovery from cancer. This set of records is almost a souvenir of that experience, but the variety of music and the freshness of her younger friends all make for happy listening.
This is a wonderful production, the soloists are a wonderful collection of virtuosi [ including several from the Maiski family and Argerich's violist daughter]. Argerich's own performance is stupendous, especially her rendition of the Mozart concerto No 25 in C. A splendid collection and well worth having..
Martha Argerich is well known for supporting her younger musician friends at her annual festival in Lugano. 2012 was another excellent year and the mesmeric playing of Argerich and her fellow musicians is again from the top drawer.