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If ever there was an Aladdin’s cave of records, this is it. Entitled Rendez-vous with Martha Argerich, the world’s most extraordinary pianist shares her joy in collaboration with her circle of close friends, far from the strains and stresses of solo playing.

Some years ago I wrote about a sizeable DG tribute to Argerich, commenting that her playing is like an acetylene torch placed dangerously close to one’s face. But if Argerich’s flame-throwing temperament is heard here at its most astonishing in Shostakovich’s First Concerto, elsewhere you are made conscious of less fiercely applied virtues. She could hardly be more evocative in Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, playing with her long-term partner Stephen Kovacevich, and in the same composer’s Cello Sonata with Mischa Maisky you are reminded how her nervous energy galvanises and inspires all who work with her. She is joined by Nicholas Angelich in Ravel’s surrealist nightmare La valse, and by Lilya Zilberstein in Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, that enchanting array of creatures great and small – including hilariously and deliberately ill-equipped pianists.

Mendelssohn’s D minor Trio in an arrangement for flute, cello and piano includes a dizzying change of pace at the end of the Molto allegro which could have caught less distinguished colleagues unawares. What darting fantasy in Schumann’s Fantasiestücke Op 73 with Maisky, and how blessed Thomas Hampson must have felt in Schumann’s Dichterliebe to be partnered by an artist who subtly and vividly counterpoints his vocal line in a way far removed from, say, Horowitz’s self-promoting brio in his recording with Fischer- Dieskau. Elsewhere I longed for Argerich with Maisky in the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata, for although Zilberstein is capable and warm-hearted, you miss what would surely be a more trenchant sense of the composer’s soaring romantic rhetoric.

There are fine performances by many other artists, but this is essentially about Argerich’s glory in an album crowned with striking photographs of all concerned.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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