MARTHA ARGERICH & FRIENDS
Live From Lugano 2016
Warner Classics 0190295831653 (3 CDs) / *****
The Project Martha Argerich at the Lugano Festival came to a memorable close last year after 15 years of outstanding chamber music making by the then 75-year-old Argentine piano super-virtuoso and her partners, young and not-so-young.
The highlight was her return to solo performance, represented by no less then Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, a thrilling reading which turns back the clock to her youthful prime in the 1970s. There is also Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major with the Orchestra della Svizerra Italiana conducted by Alexander Vedernikov, which bristles with verve and high octane vibes at every turn, as one expects from this jazz-influenced masterpiece.
New to her discography is Beethoven's Choral Fantasy (conducted by Diego Fasolis), a quasi-concerto with piano and voices which is preliminary sketch for the Ode to Joy finale of the Choral Symphony. Argerich is simply commanding in its improvisatory solo and rightly draws prolonged cheers.
In two-piano repertoire, she is joined by Sergei Babayan in Mozart's Sonata in D major (K.448) and ex-husband Stephen Kovacevich in Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn, performances which excite merely by means of felicitous touches and knowing nuances.
The balance of three well-filled discs includes music by Bach, Berg, Busoni, Brahms, Falla and Nisinman, the variety and quality of which amounts to signing off with a big bang.