Cd Review: Martha Argerich, Early Recordings

By William Dart

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Deutsche Grammophon has taken Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich's 75th birthday very seriously. New releases include a Bueno Aires concert featuring Argerich with Daniel Barenboim in duos by Schumann, Debussy and Bartok, as well as a generous five-disc Chopin set.

Included here are the composer's concertos, complete Preludes and two accounts of his cello sonata, 20 years apart, with Mstislav Rostropovich and Mischa Maisky - perfect for comparing interpretations, phrase by phrase.

The latest birthday offering, Early Recordings, comes with a stylishly retro Fred Munzmaier cover. Two discs of previously unreleased solo performances, mostly from 1960, are particularly welcome when this pianist has focused on concerto and ensemble work for decades.

You can sense the teenage Argerich straining at the reins in a brilliant Mozart K 576 sonata, but perhaps her signature tempestuousness is better accommodated in Beethoven's Opus 10 no 3. Here, there are certainly unexpected flare-ups in minuet time, but the compulsive drama of its opening Presto makes a mockery of that notorious 1962 Gramophone review in which she was roundly reprimanded for prestos that needed to be more than just speed.

Speed is certainly an issue on the second disc. The energy here is all-consuming, but it's significant that, 14 years later, in the studio, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit and Sonatine would both have more sheen and more minutes.

The best comes last: a ferociously wild 1967 radio performance of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata, with a Precipitato finale that may have you clinging to your armchair for dear life.

Martha Argerich, Early Recordings (Deutsche Grammophon)
Rating: 5/5
Verdict: A fascinating glimpse of a charismatic pianist's teenage years

- NZ Herald

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