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Violin Sonatas by Franck and Debussy, Schumann Fantasiestücke, Dora Schwarzberg and Martha Argerich (released on July 25, 2006)
Many people would buy just about any track that Argentine pianist Martha Argerich chooses to lay down, and I myself am inclined in that direction. On this new disc from the small label Avanti, her playing is captured for only the second time in the SACD format. Argerich recorded these three selections last December in a Brussels studio with a frequent partner from her very own Lugano Festival, Russian violinist Dora Schwarzberg, a highly respected teacher of the instrument and a fine player in her own right. The result is personal and idiosyncratic, with some performances I have enjoyed listening to more than others. The finest playing is lavished on the Debussy violin sonata, the last of the monumental solo sonatas that the composer completed at the end of his life. The performance is not appealing for its flawlessness, but for its tenderness, its gossamer arabesques and ghostly recitative, its enigmatic questions.

Three movements from Schumann's Fantasiestücke conclude this disc in a similar, dreamlike and arch-Romantic tone, a nice tribute to the composer who died 150 years ago this year. The longest piece on this rather brief recording, the Franck sonata (about half the CD's duration), is given a tortuous, emotionally agonizing reading that emphasizes the work's contrasts. Some flaws appear in faster passages when Schwarzberg's sense of intonation becomes approximate and her tone a little raw. However, in these pieces by three of the great keyboard virtuoso composers, all of them with parts that suit her flair and technique, Argerich's explosive playing is a wonder, from her booming left hand to her feathery filigrees. This is probably still not enough to overcome the problem of this release's pricing, quite expensive at around $20 (it is available only as an SACD) for less than an hour of music. If it is any consolation, the packaging features artwork by George Condo.

avanticlassic 5414706 10232

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