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Playing with partners has been an essential aspect of the Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich’s artistry, as may be heard on the CD of her dynamic 2009 Salzburg concert with the Brazilian Nelson Freire (DG 4778570) or with Italy’s Gabriele Baldocci (Dynamic 7663). Argerich’s artistry is such that she merits a full-time pianist as an onstage companion, rather than a conductor and part-time keyboard artist who seems to hop off a jet and dash off a concert before hopping onto another one. This, alas, is the impression of the July 2015 event at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, by Argerich and Daniel Barenboim, previously available digitally on Peral Music, Barenboim’s personal label.

The Argentine-Israeli pianist Barenboim appears to have taken Schumann’s Six Studies in Canon Form as a warm-up piece, with some lumbering and stumbling as a result. Barenboim’s tonal colour is uniform throughout, so that his Debussy sounds Schumannesque, with foursquare heavy Teutonic domestic sounds, much like his Bartók. Debussy’s En blanc et noir, instead of hectic fleeting passions as heard in recordings by such duos as Robert and Gaby Casadesus or indeed Sviatoslav Richter and Benjamin Britten, expresses an overstuffed, post-prandial, sedentary holding forth.

Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion is happier in an operatic reading of this work recorded multiple times by Argerich before, under better circumstances. Oddly, the original 1940 recording with Béla Bartók and Ditta Pásztory (Documents 297440) is rather more limpid, with all parts clearly audible, than this recent concert capture.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing