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The Argerich/Abbado combination goes way back. There is a photo of the pair looking much younger on the back cover of this disc, and their first recordings together – late 1960s accounts of the Prokofiev Third and Ravel G major – remain classics of the catalogue. It is so rare to have conductor and soloist on absolutely the same wavelength, and when they are two great artists, as here, the result is magical. Inevitably, the disc also functions as a tribute to Claudio Abbado, who died in January.

These are concert performances from the Lucerne Easter Festival (March 2013), but the quality of ensemble is finer than on most studio recordings, both within the orchestra and between soloist and orchestra. In K503, Abbado’s orchestral exposition is properly celebrational; Argerich’s response is delicate in the extreme. Her cadenza (by Friedrich Gulda) is the perfect choice for her reading, restrained and exquisitely shaded. Argerich’s ornaments in the Andante are beautifully playful, the whole movement chamber music of the highest order. The Allegretto finale is a perfect balance of sprightliness and tranquility.

The D minor is imbued with a seriousness that points it straight towards Beethoven (unsurprisingly, it is Beethoven’s cadenza that is used, and here it fits perfectly). As in K503’s slow movement, the sense of two great artists at the top of their game is palpable. The determined energy of the finale is perfectly judged from all sides. Argerich has recorded both of these works before, but this disc sweeps all before it.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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