“Rendez-vous” With Martha Argerich, Again

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 8

The second volume of Avanti Classic’s “Rendez-vous with Martha Argerich” series offers performances from the 2019 Hamburg Festival featuring the legendary pianist in chamber and concerto collaborations, as well as younger pianists under her mentorship and more established keyboard colleagues. Collectors who followed Warner’s annual Lugano Festival “Argerich and Friends” releases from 2002 through 2016 will more-or-less know what to expect from the Rendez-vous series’ mix of thrice-familiar Argerich fare and relative repertoire novelties. Here is a rundown of Volume 2’s contents:

CD 1: Violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Edgar Moreau join Argerich for a high-powered Mendelssohn C minor Trio, a work new to her discography. In Brahms’ G major sonata Op. 78, Capuçon and pianist Nicholas Angelich generally prove more spontaneous (albeit casual in detail) compared to their earlier recording on Erato.

CD 2: Probably the most relaxed and flexible of Argerich’s three commercial versions of the Mozart Andante with Five Variations K. 501 made with Stephen Kovacevich. The heavy-handed finale of her Beethoven “Kreutzer” Sonata with violinist Tedi Papavrami, however, yields to this violinist’s earlier, more refined recording with pianist François-Frédéric Guy, not to mention superior Argerich Kreutzers featuring violinists Itzhak Perlman (EMI) and Vadim Repin (DG). The fine Argerich/Gabriela Montero Schubert F minor Fantasia would have contributed more valuably to this release had Argerich and Sergio Tiempo not teamed up for an altogether lither and suppler interpretation, also issued by Avanti Classic.

CD 3: Charles Dutoit is an old hand at Stravinsky’s Les Noces, yet this performance (minus Argerich) may be better than it sounds from an engineering standpoint. Argerich can still burn through the Tchaikovsky First concerto like an unbridled puppy, with her 78-year-old fingers operating close to full capacity (reducing Dutoit and the Symphoniker Hamburg to second banana status). But what’s the point, when the superior Argerich/Abbado/Berlin recording of “Tchaik One” remains the reference to end all references?

CD 4: Evgeny Bozhanov serves up seven gorgeous, pianistically-oriented Scarlatti sonata performances. Pianists Dong Hyek Lim, Sophie Pacini, and Mauricio Vallini join Argerich for the musically uninteresting Bach Concerto in A minor with four keyboards. None of the “official” live Argerich Schumann Kinderszenen recordings improve upon her 1983 DG studio version, including this one from Hamburg. Argerich’s Chopin Introduction and Polonaise brillante with cellist Mischa Maisky sounds slightly fussy next to their stricter 2000 live DG recording.

CD 5: If no other version of Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 2 with Argerich at the piano existed, I’d easily recommend her teaming up here with Tedi Papavrami. But it falls short of her earlier Capuçon and Gidon Kremer collaborations, while a 1975 recording of the flute version with James Galway preserves Argerich’s most incisive handling of the piano part. The Sylvain Cambreling-led Prokofiev Third Concerto is yet another case of “been there, done that much better decades ago.”

CD 6: Mozart’s D major K. 381 Sonata for piano duet with Akane Sakai lacks the vitality and stylish sparkle of Argerich’s superb 2012 Lugano reading with Maria João Pires. Bozhanov returns with Sergei Babayan for a lovely Debussy Petite Suite, while Babayan accompanies violinist Geza Hosszu-Legocky in two fine Granados and Kreisler encores. Sergio Tiempo and Karen Lechner display impressive ensemble synchronicity in the Poulenc Two Piano Sonata and Lutoslawski Paganini Variations. Lastly, Argerich plays the Waltz from Rachmaninov’s Six Pieces for Four Hands Op. 11 more indulgently with Khatia Buniatischvili than in her relatively straightforward 2003 Lugano performance with Lilya Zilberstein.

Notwithstanding many points of interest, Volume 2 doesn’t consistently reach Volume 1’s performance heights, nor its variety of repertoire. My qualified recommendation will not dissuade rabid Argerich acolytes from acquiring this release, but general listeners certainly should download or stream the collection’s highlights. In the meantime, I look forward to the next ten Argerich Schumann Kinderszenens.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Rendez-vous with Martha Argerich, Volume 2
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Various Composers & Works

  • Martha Argerich (piano); Various instrumentalists
  • Symphoniker Hamburg, Sylvain Cambreling, Charles Dutoit

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