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This is a monumental tribute to a monumental talent. Sadly, documentation is slim, and what there is has been badly edited (random italics, continental quotation marks used in English text) or just plain wrong (eg the running order for the final DVD). All this is a pale reflection of the 11 hours of glory enclosed within.

A film by Argerich’s daughter, Stéphanie, creates far more than local colour. Bloody Daughter is an intimate portrait, an amazing chronicle of Argerich’s life from the fanaticism she can inspire (Argerich chopsticks!) to the travails of her personal life and her struggles to maintain some sort of a family against the demands of an international career. She isolates Schumann as the composer whose directness of expression touches her most deeply; we see Kovacevich towards the end of the film as an integral part of her life. But more than anything we see an honest portrayal of a very human person.

Another film, Evening Talks by Georges Gachot, is more traditional and a tad duller. Yet Argerich’s honesty is astonishing. Some of the excerpts make one beg for more: the close of Liszt’s Concerto No 1 with the New Philharmonia/Leinsdorf in 1973 is particularly intriguing, and the influence of Gulda is considered (she was his only pupil: he was her ‘greatest influence’). Seeing her win the 1965 Chopin Competition is heart- warming.

The second DVD is short: Chopin’s Concerto No 1 with two brief encores. A live performance in Warsaw with the Sinfonia Varsovia/Kaspszyk (2010), it contains a core strength and finds Argerich feeding off the energy of live performance. There is an elemental aspect to the more propulsive passages of the first movement, balanced by melting lyricism (the latter fully flowering in the Romance). An indispensable adjunct to her famous DG version (LSO/Abbado).

If the RLPO/Groves (Preston, 1977) cannot vie with the Berliners (Abbado, DG), Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 here is as incendiary as one might expect (stunning double octaves). Groves is a fine accompanist and only occasionally do the Liverpudlian strings reveal their second-league status. The Prokofiev Third (LSO/ Previn), in the Fairfield Halls, is if anything an even finer performance. Her better-known Dutoit and Abbado performances remain firmly in place, but the added visual element adds greatly to this piece; the slow movement contains huge beauty.

The DVD with Barenboim at Argentina’s Teatro Colón in 2014 holds a stunning Rite (reviewed in IP Sept/Oct 2016, page 75). Both the final two DVDs contain gold from the Verbier Festival; the sixth includes a masterly Bach Partita No 2, featuing a timeless Sarabande. The Bartók Violin Sonata No 1 with Renaud Capuçon is one of the finest, most nuanced versions available.

The final disc is stuffed with concertos. Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Chailly and the Leigzig Gewandhaus, with its bejewelled finale, is one of Argerich’s finest accounts (there are many Argerich performances of this work, including versions with Celibidache and Tennstedt at the helm); Beethoven’s Second Concerto (Verbier, 2009) is incisive, separated from a splendid Shostakovich First by an impossibly fluent Scarlatti Sonata in D minor Kk141. Finally, the Ravel G major with Temirkanov (Stockholm, 2009 Nobel Prize Concert), where the zip of the rapid-fire writing is offset against beautiful languor.

This is a great tribute. Perhaps EuroArts might consider making it feel even more special by taking some care in its presentation?

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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