BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 3 – Argerich
Martha Argerich’s two most recent discs have coupled works central to her repertoire with first performances on record. Here her long-awaited recording of Beethoven’s Third Concerto appears with the Second, music she has relished over the years. But whether novel or familiar, both performances are of a quality rarely encontered at any time or from any arist.
Charactersistically nervous before playing a concerto she had not performed for 20 years, Argerich erased all trepidation with a performance in which every note and phrase seems to spring new-minted from the page. Magisterial, insouciant, scintillating and acute, this greatest of all living pianists resolves every thought and consideration in playing of an enthralling spontaneity. What open-hearted delight in Beethoven’s proud Prospero-like assertion of his beloved C minor powers: the arpeggios at the heart of the cadenza flash like summer lightning, and the recitatives at the close of the slow movements of both Concertos seem to stretch into infinity. Famed for her unique virtuoso prowess, Argerich is no less eloquent in simplicity.
Of course, such unimpeded vitality and indifference to convention may prompt raised eyebrows among die-hards and conservatives; but if such spine-tingling brilliance takes you close to the edge, it is also a reminder that, in the words of Muriel Spark’s Jean Brodie, beauty rather than safety comes first. Claudio Abbado, a long-term musical partner, and his youthful Mahler orchestra are entirely at one with their mercurial soloist and the recordings admirably capture both ultra-live occasions.
And so, making no apology for greed, may I make a plea for recordings of the Fourth and Fifth Concertos?