This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
So far as Beethoven's piano music, his concertos and sonatas, is concerned we are currently in a state of some confusion. Too many of the famous old LP recordings have vanished from view, whilst new cycles tentatively emerge in a complex variety of formats and couplings. The latest cycle to be begun, joining Perahia and Haitink on CBS and Arrau and Davis on Philips, is by the brilliant Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich, accompanied (with a good deal of refinement, to judge by this first issue) by the Philharmonia Orchestra under its principal conductor, Giuseppe Sinopoli.
Argerich is an exceptional pianist, but she needs to be if she is to master a world in which great issues are often rumbustiously addressed; a world not
unlike our own House of Commons in which a woman needs to be exceptional to survive let alone thrive. Some works in the Beethoven Canon have been tellingly illuminated by pianists like Clara Haskil and Dame Myra Hess but women who can take on Beethoven in his most bullish mood are few and far between. Guiomar Novaës comes to mind, as does Annie Fischer, whose recording of the C minor Concerto with Fricsay and the Bavarian State Orchestra (DG) has long commanded respect.
Argerich has something of the necessary dauntlessness; she has also studied with some of the most distinguished as well as the most radical of post-war Beethoven pianists, including Gulda, Michelangeli, and Kempif who as long ago as 1970 singled out Argerich for special praise in an interview I had with him. She is, of course, a brilliant technician; but there is also a fantastic streak in her make-up, a capacity for creative fantasy, which is needed if areas of these remarkable works are to be brought fully and vividly to life. In both these early concertos, her touch is light and expert. There are occasionally exaggerations of tempo and phrasing but there are no exaggerations of scale. In this respect it is significant that Argerich, like Lupu on Decca, opts for the short, second Beethoven cadenza in the first movement of the C major Concerto.
It is difficult to fault Argerich, as it is difficult to fault Lupu or the two Philips artists, BishopKovacevich and Brendel, in the concertos' slow movements and finales. No one plays the slow movement of the B fiat Concerto with the intensity of Serkin on Telarc, but in the outer movements Serkin is now a good deal less vital than he once was, and there is some eccentric detailing in the Boston performance, not least an errant F natural in bar 172 of the first movement of the C major Concerto, unreciprocated harmonically later in the movement.
The first movement of this concerto is perhaps the most problematic of the six, creating problems for Michelangeli (DG) who seems unduly truculent at first, and for Brendel whose insistence on a quickish tempo gives the music a skittish, diversionary feel which obscures as much as it illuminates. (Czerny's metronome mark, crotchet = 176, implies a view of the music, or a performing context, which one doesn't always share.) Argerich speeds up and slows down a good deal during the movement; even allowing for the theory that the development (drawn magically to its close by Argerich and Sinopoli) is a structural parenthesis. Her performance will unsettle the concentration of some collectors who may be happier with the finely propelled, sensitively articulated performances of Lupu and Bishop-Kovacevich, or Kempif's performance on a famous 1962 DG recording with Leitner.
Sinopoli is at once attentive and unobtrusive in the C major Concerto, a perfect foil to Argerich. In the B fiat Concerto, both Argerich and Sinopoli seem intent on personal point-making. There is room for private improvisation in this concerto as Kempif demonstrated in his wonderful old recording with the Berlin P0 under Paul van Kempen (DG) but it is the pianist who must give the lead here. "An two men ride of an horse, one must ride behind", notes Shakespeare's Constable Dogberry, a bit of homespun wisdom that suits many contexts.
This, then, is a cycle to welcome and to watch. Circumspect collectors will not abandon Kempif, Bishop- Kovacevich or Lupu among extant recordings whilst Argerich's many admirers will be gratified by the brilliance and variousness of her Beethoven style.
-- Gramophone [9/1986]
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Martha Argerich (Piano)
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria
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