Martha Argerich and Friends Live from Lugano 2013
Splendid news that one of the annual musical treats from EMI has been continued by Warner Classics but this selection from the 2013 Festival is a bag of mixed blessings. Whether we need another recording by Argerich of Beethoven’s C major Concerto is a moot point. While the freshness and conviction of her concept remain as compelling as ever, she has little different to say about the work from her eight available commercial recordings beyond a few small instances such as her more pronounced left-hand accents in the A minor section. Mischa Maisky joins her in the same composer’s G minor Cello Sonata, a work they first recorded together for DG back in 1990. To listen to these two close friends firing off each other in the helter-skelter high spirits of the Rondo is pure delight.
Disc 2 has Renaud Capuçon and Francesco Piemontesi joining forces in Respighi’s rarely heard Violin Sonata, with which many will be familiar from Heifetz’s 1950 recording. With slightly more relaxed tempi throughout, Capuçon and Piemontesi bring a no less searing intensity to the ravishing Andante espressivo second movement. And it is the slow movement of Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata, Op 40, that impresses most in Gautier Capuçon and Gabriela Montero’s account, though here the mood is one of desolation and despair.
Andrey Baranov, winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition and here making his Lugano debut, opens the batting on disc 3 with Ravel’s posthumously published Violin Sonata in A minor, a student composition written in 1897. It’s an attractive enough single movement – there are parts that sound like English-pastoral Vaughan Williams – but lacking the distinctive character of the great Violin Sonata of 30 years later. Debussy rarely features in Argerich’s programmes. There’s an EMI Japan recording from 1999 of her playing the Petite Suite (which I’ve never heard) and it’s good to hear her reviving this in the company of Cristina Marton in a performance that is fine but unexceptional. What really sets this disc alight are the four movements from the Offenbach-Rosenthal Gaîté parisienne ballet suite transcribed by Carlo Maria Griguoli for three pianos (Griguoli himself with Giorgia Tomassi and Alessandro Stella are now firm festival favourites). Audience applause, thankfully retained after all the performances on these discs, here comes with added whoops of delight.
The Can-Can, which rounds off this exuberant world premiere performance, features in ‘Tortoises’ from Carnival of the Animals. Despite the pleasure of hearing the Grand Zoological Fantasy in its original chamber guise for once, this one is woefully dull. ‘Tortoises’ is so lugubrious that it kills its humorous intent stone dead; the wrong-note-out-of-sync ‘Pianists’ is a laboured joke beyond wincing; for no reason at all the ‘Partant pour la Syrie’ section of ‘Fossils’ suddenly changes tempo from allegro ridiculo to moderato; and the Swan sounds as if it’s heading off for Tuonela.