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CD Review

Martha Argerich

The Collection 2: The Concerto Recordings

Martha Argerich, piano
6 Gidon Kremer, violin
9 Guy Touvron, trumpet
1 Philharmonia Orchestra/Giuseppe Sinopoli
2 Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
3 London Symphony Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
4 National Symphony Orchestra, Washington/Mstislav Rostropovich
5 Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn/Jörg Faerber
6 Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
7 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
8 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
Deutsche Grammophon 4778124 7CDs
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from Find it at JPC

This is a beautiful box of tremendous value. Classical Net holds reviews of most of the pianists' later work, but if you want the classics among the classics, this is the box to get. Martha Argerich remains a marvel of the musical world, so her concerto collaborations are honestly judged more by her partners than by anything she does or doesn't do. Over these seven CDs, there's not a single performance that isn't worth hearing. Packaged in "original jacket" style, anyone who cares about the piano needs this box.

The winners are numerous. Argerich's first Prokofieff 3rd and Ravel G Major deserve to stand tall even today. Abbado's first efforts with the Berlin Philharmonic revel a master conductor who would later disappoint, at least on disc. The London Symphony plays similarly well for Abbado. While the Liszt 1st and Chopin 1st are astounding, the Ravel remake is on a less exalted level. On the other hand, the Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich are pleasant surprises that show off the pianists considerable range, even within her very limited repertoire.

The Beethoven concertos are more varied. Argerich has always played these works well, but they are not a first choice overall. Giuseppe Sinopoli provides a massive, almost stately framework for the first two concertos, while Abbado (in his late, not as great years) provides a clipped and somewhat micromanaged backdrop in the Second and Third with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. I prefer the earlier readings, simply because they show how much fire this music can take while using a traditional approach, and I also prefer the Philharmonia. Varied too are the Chopin 2nd and Schumann concertos Rostropovich could be a great conductor, but neither effort with the National Symphony is especially convincing.

But both Tchaikovsky Firsts are unbelievable, and the 1994 live version with Abbado and Berlin is the pick of the set. Frankly, all three of Argerich's renditions of the work are essential listening (the third is in the Philips set). At the end of the day, each of these recordings testify to the astounding artistry of Martha Argerich, and the artistry of those she worked with. Get it, while it's still in print!

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman