Over the last several years, a number of videos have been embedded in our pages featuring Martha Argerich and other pianists (Nelson Freire, Evgeny Kissin, Lilya Zilberstein, and others) playing four-hands or two-piano pieces, mostly in live recordings from the Lugano Festival, concerts in the series she organizes, known as the Progetto Martha Argerich. Argerich clearly loves the spirit of collaboration, and she regularly uses her own fame to showcase other pianists in whom she believes, at Lugano and La Roque d'Anthéron. This disc puts many of those two-piano performances, recorded live at the Lugano Festival between 2002 and 2005, onto a two-CD set priced to move, to put alongside the series of chamber music CDs from Lugano released by EMI in the last several years.
Martha Argerich: Music for Two Pianos (Brahms, Lutosławski, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky)
(released September 16, 2008)
EMI Classics 50999 2 07623 2 2
Some of the fiercest playing comes from Argerich's pairing with Gabriela Montero, on Rachmaninov's second suite (op. 17). The two have similar temperaments, pianistically feisty and a little unpredictable, and the combination in this devilishly difficult music is mercurial. The two-piano version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite is fun and light-hearted, if far from simple, played here with Mirabela Dina. Lilya Zilberstein is featured in two works, Rachmaninov's Six Morceaux for Piano, Four Hands, and the much more interesting F minor sonata by Brahms (op. 34bis, adapted from a now-lost string quintet and eventually "finished" as the op. 34 piano quintet). The latter is a performance to savor. Lutosławski's Paganini Variations are as much fun to play as they are to listen to, and Argerich and Giorgia Tomassi go all out, although it is hard not to want instead this piece from Argerich-Montero (shown in the video below, from the Verbier Festival, about 10 seconds faster than Argerich-Tomassi and more secure technically). Yefim Bronfman is his usual iron-fingered self with Argerich in Rikuya Terashima's two-piano transcription of Prokofiev's first symphony, and Polina Leschenko sits second piano to Argerich in the brilliant two-piano transcription of Brahms's Variations on the St. Antoni Chorale.
Gabriela Montero / Martha Argerich (Verbier Festival 2007)
Variations on a Theme of Paganini