Many thanks to our friend Urbanox for this stunning box
With this special edition DG pays tribute to an extraordinary musical partnership. The 6LP box set collects all the concerto recordings made by pianist Martha Argerich with conductor Claudio Abbado over more than 45 years. Their final meeting on stage took place at the Lucerne Festival at Easter 2013, where they performed two Mozart concertos. This special occasion was recorded, and the release was not only highly praised but is also Deutsche Grammophon’s most successful release of 2014 so far.
Martha Argerich and Claudio Abbado got to know each other through Friedrich Gulda, with whom they both studied in the late 1950s. Their close collaboration in the studio began in 1967 with Argerich’s brilliant concerto-debut release of the Prokofiev Third and Ravel G major. Each recording since then has been a success, as much with the critics as on a commercial level.
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, Frederik Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Maurice Ravel, Peter Tchaikowsky, Sergej Prokofiev
Performer: Martha Argerich
Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra Mozart
Conductor: Claudio Abbado
Number of discs: 6
DR-Analysis: DR 15/14/15/15/14/17
Size: 11.67 GB
This was the debut on disc in a concerto performance for Martha Argerich, and it is as stunning to hear today as it was in 1966. That’s not to say that there aren’t other fine recordings of both these pieces out there, but this is as good as any. First of all, in the Prokofiev the sheer facility of the fingerwork is marvelous, and despite the fast tempo and motoric character of some of the passagework, she never sounds as if she’s banging anything out. The piano tone is always appealing, so the energy is just invigorating to listen to. There are moments that gesture towards lyricism, but as I see it, this concerto is all about what the piano and the pianist can do (Prokofiev was no mean pianist himself), and it doesn’t express much beyond that. In other words, I don’t believe that Argerich and Abbado fail to express something that’s there.
There are times when I think the orchestra, and particularly the strings, need to be more in the aural picture — the Ravel seems better balanced in this regard — but that’s not a huge negative for me. The heart of the disc is the slow movement of the Ravel — it is absolutely beautifully played here, and in the second half of it is almost more of a wind concerto as (I’m guessing) Karlheinz Zoller and Alfred Prinz are given their heads, and Argerich plays a beautifully rippling supporting role — even then the chamber musician was part of her makeup. The Ravel finale, with plenty of presence from the orchestra, is as invigorating as the Prokofiev. “Gaspard” was not part of the original recording — it has been added for this reissue, and it’s as good as any in the catalogue, though I tend to think Pogorelich’s account is especially outstanding. But make no mistake — this is, as they say, the real deal.
In Argerich’s selective discography, her Chopin stands out. She has performed this concerto many times, and recently recorded it digitally with Dutoit for EMI. I frankly don’t see a whole lot to separate them — both are infused with Argerich’s unique combination of impetuosity and repose. This is a masculine Chopin, not some salon charmer, strongly chorded, and virile and glittering in passage work. I cannot think of any other pianist who has played this work with such individuality. Abbado, too, is an excellent accompanist, alert and intelligent, despite the distinctly minor role he has in proceedings
The Liszt has similar virtues, with a marvellous sense of ebb and flow. It really stakes out the virtues of this work as an inventive composition of the first-rate, rather than hollow virtuosity. What’s so good about the Argerich performance is that although she dominates the work, one still feels acutely a sense of struggle and spontaneity that seems absent from today’s young lions. Again, well accompanied. Well recorded, too. If you can’t find the Argerich collection, this disk is a mandatory acquisition.
I’m tending to believe, I never heard of anyone playing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with such fiery and passion at the same time. Yes, not ever Argerich herself. This is maybe the best recording of the Piano 1.
If you like Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1, you must have Richter(Karajan) and Horowitz(Toscanini). And, if you REALLY like Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1, you must have this CD. Whenever people talk about Argerich, they always use the vocabulary “pyrotechnics” regarding her limitless technique and this recording shows it at its best. Martha Argerich could not only be the greatest pianist of the 20th century, but of history!
There is no shortage of excellent versions of either of these Beethoven concertos but once again Martha Argerich does something unique and spectacular. It is axiomatic that in any work of Beethoven in which there is a piano, the piano is Beethoven himself. That concept is probably overlooked frequently, and many pianists probably do not think of themselves as “being Beethoven” as they play (modesty alone would preclude so doing until one thinks about it), but this concept is at the heart of the success achieved here by Argerich and her outstanding collaborator Claudio Abbado. Maestro Abbado plays it very straight; the Mahler Chamber Orchestra provides a clean and clear but rather straight-laced framework.
Within that framework Argerich works her individualistic magic with extreme power, lyricism, and precision. Indeed, when Beethoven himself played, the orchestra had written parts and played what was written as well as it could, while Beethoven played mostly from his head with sometimes just rudimentary sketches (pity the page-turners!). His playing was unlike anything heard before–elemental in its power, shocking in its technical virtuosity and contrasts. There was no issue of the player and the conductor being completely parallel in their expressivity. The orchestra was the foil against which Beethoven reflected his ideas. Beyond a basic degree, there is no requirement for “one-to-one mapping” or pari passu matching between piano and orchestra. (This is obvious in the writing of the Third, for example, where the orchestra opens pianissimo and triadically and the piano finally enters in fortissimo octave scales, setting the pattern of difference to be resolved.) Abbado and Argerich do not, by any means, each go their own way, however.
They are closely connected throughout, and both in the details (inner orchestral voices, timbres at phrase ends) and at the climaxes work well together. Both performances are recorded live (years 2000 and 2004). The technical articulation of Argerich’s playing is astonishing and the lyricism of the slow movements is breath-taking. Rarely has the off-beat and frolicsome nature of the rondo of the Second been conveyed so clearly, and the sense of relief so complete when the theme finally arrives with the expected rhythm. In Argerich’s hands as in no one else’s I can hear how the quirky appogiaturas that pervade that last movement of the Second evolved into the light-hearted French style of Saint-Saens and Litolff later in the Nineteenth Century. Congratulations, Martha!
This is absolutely one of the greatest versions of the Mozart piano concertos 25 and 20. Martha and Claudio together with wonderful sound made one terrific CD. It is not flashy as some other versions are but probably sounds very close to the way Mozart played and wanted it played. There are about 50 members in this Mozart Orchestra founded by the late Claudio Abbado and they sound as if he taught them well.
Argerich is Argerich — one of a kind. Abbado and Orchestra Mozart are simply indescribable. The orchestral sound is almost “liquid” in nuance. All three are fully engaged in making this music elegant, and these performances (at Lucerne) embody all that is elegant about Mozart’s sublime concerti. Argerich plays “in the style”, not restrained but mature in how she delivers every phrase and balances them with the orchestra. Abbado’s orchestra is hand-picked, so the players know what he wants and he doesn’t have to cajole or restrain the players. They want to play for him. Everybody has his favorite Mozart performer, but if you’re looking for a recording that is smooth as satin, this is it. Nothing is overstated or rushed: all of everything is in this recording.
To the casual listener, Maurice Ravel can seem a bit modern of sound, his embrace of bitonality and modality can be a bit off-putting in some works, but I find Ravel’s music is often of two minds: 1. The witty and diverse, the Piano Concerto in G , Minuet, and Le Tombeau de Couperin are perhaps the most approachable, but also certainly grasp Ravel’s decisions to change gears from movement to movement, often throwbacks of early forms of music put into new, unusual musical guises, and 2. The modern and exotic, his Piano Concerto in D for left-hand and the fanfare sometimes evoke the spirit of Stravinsky in my ear, and although Ravel’s lush instrumentations are certainly romantic, his lack of thematic melody without losing its musical melodiousness is evocative of his Impressionistic leanings.
Ravel’s popular Piano Concerto in G, with its jazzy, exotic 1st movement, meandering piano-centered 2nd, and comical finale, was recorded in 1984 at St. John’s, Smith Square. Martha Argerich and Claudio Abbado compete directly with their own recording from a decade or so earlier, and if not as viscerally successful, this is sonically speaking, marginally better. Argerich’s often idiomatic playing is rapturous here, although if I had my druthers, I perhaps would like the piano to come forward a bit in the soundscape, but the London Symphony Orchestra is in top form and plays remarkably spirited to match Argerich.
- RCM: Okki Nokki (L’art du son, Clearaudio’s Diamond Cleaner)
- TT: Vintage (1982) Yamaha PX-3
Cartridge: Sumiko Black Bird
- Cartridge: ZYX 50R Bloom
- Phono amp: Audio Research SP15 own tube phono section.
- ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
- Pre Amp: Audio Research SP15
- Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
- Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
- Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
- Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
- Super light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
- DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
- Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
- Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5
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