When you issue a recording of live concerts featuring Martha Argerich playing the Tchaikovsky First and Prokofiev Third concertos, you're not going out on any limbs in the marketplace. You know the recording will sell – and it is well that this one should. This video captures Argerich at age thirty-five in two concertos she has not only played many times, but has recorded on a number of occasions as well. In these 1977 concerts, filmed in color by the way, she comes across as the young lioness of the piano, utterly assured, playing with impressive technique and seeming ease. Octaves fly and notes typically ripple with buzz-saw precision and speed. But it's not just a virtuosic show: Argerich gives the music passion and sweep, and the colorful character of both concertos comes through convincingly.
Argerich's Tchaikovsky First is closer to her propulsive 1980 Philips recording with Kondrashin than her 1970 DG effort with Dutoit. This 1977 recording is fiery and driven, eschewing some of the refinement heard in the 1970 account. Her first movement here is two minutes faster than in 1970 and both other movements are also marginally quicker.
Oddly, her Prokofiev Third is a little less driven than her famous 1967 account with Abbado on DG. This 1977 rendition with Previn is perhaps a tad more convincing, however. That said, I must confess I slightly prefer Argerich's EMI Prokofiev Third from 1998 with Dutoit. But the differences between all the recordings are small and anyone of them will satisfy the pianist's many fans. Argerich has always played this concerto well, and so you can't go wrong with this video version, not least because it offers the pianist at the height of her powers. Both performances by her in fact are thrilling. The sound, described as PCM Stereo, sounds like mono to my ears, but it's quite excellent mono for its time. The camera work is splendid and, while it shows many players and sections from the orchestra during performance, as well as the conductors, it follows Argerich most of the time. Fans of Argerich and keyboard mavens wanting propulsive accounts of these two war horses won't go wrong with this Ideale Audience DVD.
Copyright © 2012, Robert Cummings