Argerich in Lugano 2016
Final chapter of festival recordings brings a notable first
For the first time in many years, Martha Argerich returned to public solo performance at the final instalment of her Swiss lakeside festival last summer, and the resulting recording of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit is issued on 1 September by Warner Classics.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the famously exacting challenges of Ravel’s work were met by Argerich as a cornerstone of her repertoire. However, she has not given solo performances for many years, preferring instead to work on concertos and chamber music with friends and favoured musical partners such as Daniel Barenboim and her former husbands Stephen Kovacevich and Charles Dutoit.
For the last 15 years she has curated a festival, the Progetto Martha Argerich, in the Swiss lakeside town of Lugano. Selected highlights from each year were released by EMI, and then Warner Classics, to critical acclaim. They included Argerich in concerto, duet and chamber music, with both classics for which she is renowned such as the concertos of Chopin and Ravel, and breathtaking performances of pieces new to her repertoire, including Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio and The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns.
Watch this fantastic 30-minute documentary from the 2002 Lugano festival:
The festival’s principal sponsor has now withdrawn its funding, and so the final edition took place in June 2016. Highlights which have made it to the new Warner Classics box include a tribute to Ferruccio Busoni in his anniversary year, with Renaud Capuçon the soloist in the Violin Concerto. Capuçon is also joined by pianist Nicholas Angelich and an ensemble of local wind soloists for a performance of Berg’s Chamber Concerto.
However, all eyes and ears will be on the Argentine pianist’s contributions, which are generously represented on the set. They include accompanying the Greek violinist Tedi Papavrami in the C minor Violin Sonata of Bach; a duet arrangement of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune with Kovacevich; Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos with Sergey Babayan; and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and Ravel’s Concerto in G.
But the set opens, inevitably, with her new Gaspard. According to the concert reviewer of the Italian Musica magazine, Argerich retained ‘all the rhythmic but above all dynamic finesse that she had already shown in the 1970s, with a technical glitter virtually unchanged. I do not think any pianist at the age of 75, even from the past, could match her.’
MARTHA ARGERICH & FRIENDS LIVE FROM LUGANO 2016
Warner Classics 0190295831653 (3CD)
Argerich was Pianist magazine’s issue 86 cover. Print copies sold out almost immediately, but you can still get hold of the digital issue
Main image: © Sonja Werner