Martha strikes again!
Anyone who's listened to WFCR's classical music more than three days in a row must have figured out that I have a thing for Martha Argerich. Don't worry; it's not one of those stalking things. I don't go jetting around the world capturing every performance by the great Argentine pianist. And I don't have a room full of photos, posters, programs and miscellaneous sacred artifacts of The Divine One.
No, my admiration is purely musical. The touch! The tone! The spontaneous, unpredictable, joyous way she makes even the most over-roasted chestnut come alive under her fingers! Just thinking about it makes me...well, makes me want to put her on the radio, as Walter and I will do twice on Tuesday, with a pair of selections from a new 4-CD set from Deutsche Grammophon called "Argerich: Lugano Concertos."
The title of the set is self-explanatory — almost. The music comes from the 2004-2010 editions of the "Progetto Martha Argerich" held each June at Switzerland's Lugano Festival. Plenty of musicians curate their own festivals; few draw the spectacular roster of artists that Argerich brings to Lugano, and fewer still engender the collaborative fun you can hear in each performance in this set. But contrary to the title, not everything here is a concerto. There are piano duets by Mozart, Milhaud and Schubert. There's Brahms's "Liebeslieder Waltzes." There's Stravinsky's "Les Noces." But there are nine concertos for one, two or three pianos, and it's from that repertoire we'll be selecting on Tuesday.
First up, at about 10:20 Tuesday morning, is Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, a delightful whirlwind with a gorgeous central Larghetto right out of Mozart. One of the coolest things about the Progetto Argerich is the number of outstanding pianists invited to join its namesake for multi-keyboard works, in this case the young Belgian piano phenom Alexander Gurning. But even when Argerich relegates herself to the second or even (in Mozart's Concerto No. 7) third piano bench, there's no question whose spirit hovers over the proceedings. The Concerto's cheeky parts have never been cheekier, the spectral conclusion to the first movement never more spectral, the brash conclusion never brasher. Poulenc for Poulenc lovers.
But even this performance has to yield in overall excitement to the rendition of Sergei Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3, coming up at about 3:20 Tuesday afternoon. Holy hemidemisemiquaver, Batman! With Argerich's ex-husband Charles Dutoit conducting, this rendition of Prokofiev's best-known piano concerto makes all but the greatest recorded performances (Janis/Kondrashin, Cliburn/Hendl) sound positively earth-bound. Rather than gush further, I'll simply urge you to listen. And if you can't today, I'll give you several more chances, so keep an ear out.