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The irresistible ingredients of the Progetto Martha Argerich – world class performances of well-known, lesser-known and barely-known music by the legendary pianist and a “multi-generational artistic family” of musical friends – have established Lugano as a leading destination for summer music festival-goers. For the sixth year in a row, EMI is proud to release a 3-CD set of live recordings from the festival, making the inspirational music making of these chamber music concerts available to a wider audience.
The 2008 festival release welcomes back familiar Argerich Lugano collaborators such as Virgin Classics violinist Renaud Capuçon, Mischa Maisky, Lilya Zilberstein, Stephen Kovacevich and Dora Schwarzberg.
Repertoire highlights include first recordings by Martha Argerich of works by Janacek, Piazzolla and Mikhail Pletnev. Four of Dvorák’s popular Slavonic Dances (two each from Op. 46 and Op. 72) and the Saint-Saëns Scherzo are complemented by two youthful works: Shostakovich’s rarely performed Piano Trio No. 1 and Rachmaninov’s Suite No. 1 for two pianos. The deeply romantic Piano Quintet by Anton Arensky (1861-1906) demonstrates the freshness and atmospheric immediacy of a handful of excellent works by this lesser-known Russian composer. Also represented are works for varying instrumental combinations by Mozart, Schumann, Ravel and Piazzolla. And Fantasia Elvetica (Swiss Fantasy) shows the compositional feather in the cap of the brilliant pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev, who has over 30 orchestral and chamber works to his credit, including some celebrated piano transcriptions. Filled with Swiss folk tunes and evoking shepherds and cows on the meadows, Fantasia Elvetica was composed in 2006 as a tribute to the composer’s adopted home. Pletnev leads the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana with Martha Argerich and Alexander Mogilewsky as the soloists.
No other pianist in the music world today nurtures and promotes talented emerging artists with the same level of personal commitment and belief as Martha Argerich. Her infectious spirit fires her own performances and partnerships as well as those of her colleagues and protégés. In the words of the Financial Times, “…the music flies off the page, like a high-calibre jam session in which the participants throw away worldly cares and listen to each other in the moment of performance. There's polish aplenty, as one might expect of well-established musicians, but more to the point, the CD [of highlights of the 2007 Festival] radiates the freshness and electricity of a special occasion. What's so endearing about Argerich's festival concept is that she blends younger players with more experienced colleagues, so there's a cross-fertilisation of ideas. Even when she plays no part … the same invigorating spirit presides.”
The 2005 and 2006 Live from the Lugano Festival collections were nominated for Grammy Awards.
“EMI's latest collection of Lugano recordings [2007 season] is one of the best so far, largely because it is dominated by the great lady herself – and because this is clearly the atmosphere in which Argerich is most relaxed and able to give of her dazzling, inspirational best. … All the performances convey a sense of sheer enjoyment" The Guardian, April 2008
“The delightful festival where youth meets experience and both benefit: […] friends are the best music-makers.” Gramophone
“These annual live sets from the Lugano Festival are one of the delights of the year." The Observer
Mozart: Andante & Variations For Piano 4 Hands, K 501
Schumann: Violin Sonata #2 In D Minor, Op. 121 - 1. Ziemlich Langsam Und Energisch, Lebhaft
Schumann: Violin Sonata #2 In D Minor, Op. 121 - 2. Sehr Lebhaft
Schumann: Violin Sonata #2 In D Minor, Op. 121 - 3. Leise, Einfach (Etwas Lebhafter, Etwas Bewegter, Tempo Wie Vorher)
Schumann: Violin Sonata #2 In D Minor, Op. 121 - 4. Bewegt
Arensky: Quintet In D, Op. 51 - 1. Allegro Moderato
Arensky: Quintet In D, Op. 51 - 2. Andante Con Variazioni
Ravel: Introduction & Allegro Version For 2 Pianos
Piazzolla: Los Cuatro Estaciones - 1. Verano Porteño
Piazzolla: Los Cuatro Estaciones - 2. Otoño Porteño
Piazzolla: Los Cuatro Estaciones - 3. Invierno Prorteño
Piazzolla: Los Cuatro Estaciones - 4. Primavera Porteña
Pletnev: Fantasia Elvetica - 1. Maestoso
Pletnev: Fantasia Elvetica - 2. Tranquillo
Pletnev: Fantasia Elvetica - 3. Temps Di Marcia, Andante
Pletnev: Fantasia Elvetica - 4. Tempo Di Polka, Più Vivo, Allegro
“…Martha Argerich… in a duet with her ex-husband Stephen Kovacevich… delivers Mozart's Andante and Variations in G, K501 with such pearlised perfection that we are instantly drawn into her surprising musical world. Bonnes bouches by Ravel (Introduction and Allegro), Saint-Saëns (Scherzo, Op. 87), and Dvorák (four Slavonic Dances) allows these brilliant soloists to shine in constantly changing permutations: the whole thing is a feast.”
“Anyone seeking evidence of how keenly Martha Argerich can adjust her personality to suit the interpretative preferences of her colleagues need only compare these two versions of Schumann's Second Violin Sonata from Lugano in 2008 and Berlin in 2006. Argerich in Lugano collaborates with Renaud Capuçon, darting about the score as if treading hot coals, nimble, at times breathless, and consistently appreciative of Capuçon's malleable phrasing and warmly brushed tone. The rapport with a more grainy, acerbic-sounding Gidon Kremer (Berlin) is as great but quite different in musical effect, even though the two sets of movement timings match (within seconds) and in both cases Argerich is recognisably herself. But the contrasts in approach are telling and at times fairly subtle. For example, near the start of the Sonata's slow movement, when the violinist switches from pizzicato to arco – in Gidon Kremer's case a transformation from genial troubadour to ghostly apparition – Argerich anticipates the change by stealthily, almost hesitantly, slowing the tempo. This is Schumann at his most unhinged. While the Capuçon/Argerich partnership goes for colour and volatility, Kremer and Argerich (who recorded the work some years ago for DG), although equally exciting, are more darkly insistent, more appreciative perhaps of the music's troubled soul. Rarely on disc have so many superficial similarities gone hand in hand with as many profound dissimilarities. Both performances are riveting, and the two very different acoustics (Lugano is far airier) might have something to do with why Argerich projects so differently in each case. Still, when deciding which version to go for, potential purchasers are likely to view the two programming contexts as crucial. The Lugano set, the latest in series devoted to live recordings from the Festival, is full of memorable treats. It closes with a kaleidoscopic half-hour Fantasia elvetica by Mikhail Pletnev who also conducts the Svizzera Italiana Orchestra, his two piano soloists for the occasion Argerich and Alexander Mogilevsky. Although stylistically eclectic (Respighi, Sibelius, Saint-Saëns, Poulenc and Shchedrin all came to mind) the Fantasia is delightful: frothy, listener-friendly and packed full of cheeky tunes. Ravel's two-piano transcription of his Introductionand Allegro (Giorgia Tomassi, Alessandro Stella) trades a delicate dreamscape for billowing virtuosity: the effect is rather like the piano version of 'Une barque sur l'océan'. There are piano duets or two-piano works by Mozart (Andante and Variations, K501), Saint-Saëns (a rather equivocal-sounding Scherzo, Op 87), Rachmaninov (Suite No 1 with Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein) and dances by Piazzolla and Dvorák. We're also given Piazzolla's Four Seasons arranged for piano trio. Argerich leads a tangy, rhythmically supple account of Janácek's madcap Concertino, Lily and Mischa Maisky join violinist Alissa Margulis for Shostakovich's 12-minute First Piano Trio and Zilberstein is the pianist in Arensky's richly romantic Piano Quintet in D. A sense of joy reigns throughout: this music-making could happily serve as a corrective whenever some half-hearted studiobound session dampens your spirits. The Berlin concert with Argerich and Kremer is equally gripping but quite different. Argerich goes solo for a typically quixotic account of Schumann's Kinderszenen, each cameo following swiftly on the heels of the last, the style alert, playful, keenly attentive to inner voices and in the last two pieces appropriately poised. But for me the performances that make this Berlin concert absolutely indispensable are the two Bartók sonatas. The First Sonata's agitated badinage reaches fever pitch in the finale where Kremer swings in on a glissando and the two go hell for leather as one racy folk-style motif follows another. The Sonata's close is an absolute riot, so much so that the first encore, Kreisler's Liebesleid, limps in like an innocent bystander mistakenly targeted in a fight. True, Schön Rosmarin picks up the spirit but even Kreisler's charm cannot quite erase the recent memory of Bartók's unrelenting onslaught. The first CD concludes with one of the finest ever recorded performances of Bartók's Solo Sonata, Kremer calling on his full repertoire of violinistic devices which include, in addition to the many called for in the score, a mastery of tonal colouring and a rhythmic grip that at times seem to transcend the limitations of the instrument. Kremer doesn't so much play as speak to you through the music and while his tone hasn't the alluring sweetness of, say, a (young) Menuhin, the sheer electricity of his interpretation more than compensates. Not once does the tension even begin to ease. What an artist!”
12th April 2009
“Martha Argerich’s annual box of treats from Lugano reminds us why she is so much admired as a pianist and a nurturer of kindred lively spirits.”
24th April 2009
“Argerich features more extensively in this latest collection than she sometimes has in the past - playing Mozart's Andante and Variations K501 with Stephen Kovacevich and Rachmaninov's First Suite for two pianos with Lilya Zilberstein, and appearing as soloist in Janácek's Concertino and in Mikhail Pletnev's own gruesomely kitschy Fantasia Elvetica. Without her, the other hand-picked musicians play Arensky's Piano Quintet, Shostakovich's Second Piano Trio, a surprisingly successful two-piano arrangement of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro, and a piano-trio version of Piazzolla's Four Seasons. Somehow, the electricity that is such a trademark of Argerich's own performances transfers to most of those, too.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.