Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 6
You wonder what the Sinfonia Varsovia musicians thought as they executed Alexandre Rabinovitch’s ludicrous phrase distensions and cloying diminuendos throughout the first movement of Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony. What did the recording engineers think when the finale breezed by like many bats out of you-know-where, and the slick, speedy ensemble playing got lost in reverb jello? None of this matters, really, because the symphony merely serves as the opening act for Martha Argerich and her fire-eating concertos. When Martha plays the Liszt E-flat or Chopin E minor, the best thing a conductor can do is just listen, pray, let the piano player do what she wants, and stay the hell out of the way. After all, you know she’s going to devour Liszt’s octaves, moon over his lyrical passages, and brilliantly joyride through the famous “triangle” section.
And you also sense that her Chopin First will be more extreme and volatile than her EMI studio recording, and that she’ll take more chances in the Finale’s whirlwind sequences. All this indeed comes to pass in these live performances from a May 14, 1999 concert in Warsaw. As a musician and pianist, Argerich is a force of nature, always in the moment and never less than 110 percent passionate and involved. Her studio versions of these works are better engineered and offer superior orchestras and conducting, plus more thoughtful (if no less exciting) keyboard work. But that extra jolt of electricity you get from live Martha might be worth the duplication, and my performance rating solely reflects her contributions. Just be sure you already own a decent “Haffner” Symphony.
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
Recording Details:Reference Recording: Mozart, Szell (Sony), Liszt, Richter (Philips), Chopin, Argerich (EMI)
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART - Symphony in D major K. 385 ("Haffner")
FRANZ LISZT - Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN - Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor