Recording of the Week Martha Argerich
I’m thrilled this week to have an excuse to talk about one of my all-time musical heroines – the Argentine pianist Martha Argerich. She turns seventy in a few weeks, and is widely regarded as one of (if not ‘the’) greatest living pianists, with a winning combination of complete technical mastery, a wonderful piano sound full of colours, clarity and dramatic range, and a natural musicianship which while sounding spontaneous and instinctive always feels somehow ‘right’. She seems to have stopped giving solo recitals, and new recordings are few and far between but she is far from retired, with regular concerto performances and an annual festival in Switzerland keeping her far more busy than she says she’d like to be!
Born in Buenos Aires, she began playing the piano before her third birthday, gave her first concert at the age of eight and moved to Europe aged fourteen to study with Friedrich Gulda in Austria. She won a number of competitions but her big break came in 1965 when at the age of 24 she won the seventh International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. She made her first record the following year and since then has made numerous award-winning recordings for Philips, DG and EMI.
She is much loved by both conductors and chamber musicians who describe her warmth and honesty of approach. The French Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin talks of feeling ‘blessed’ every time he works with her, whilst cellist Mischa Maisky talks about an instant rapport where they anticipate and react to each other in a way which gives them both total freedom.
Although Argerich doesn’t teach, she does a tremendous amount to nurture and encourage young musicians through her annual appearances ‘with friends’ at the Lugano Festival in Switzerland. Over the last ten years these have been regularly issued be EMI, and with their varied programmes and mixtures of established stars and emerging talents they provide a tremendous way of discovering a wide range of repertoire and artists at a bargain price.
To mark her seventieth birthday both EMI and Decca have produced new box sets of her recordings. The three new sets on EMI which make up their ‘Martha Argerich Edition’ comprise all her recordings for the label (apart from the Lugano ones), and are nicely divided between concertos, chamber music and solo & duo. The new set from Decca (following on from the three on DG) comprises her complete Philips recordings and includes some now legendary recordings such as Rachmaninov Third Concerto with Riccardo Chailly.
All these sets were terrific value already, but we’re really pleased to be able to offer them along with the Lugano ones for a limited time at discounts of up to 50% off. There are a total of 17 different Argerich boxes to choose from and some absolute bargains within.