Martha Argerich - Live from Lugano Festival 2006
Begin with the first work on the first disc, Schumann’s Piano Quartet. Every dynamic mark in the introduction is meticulously observed, the musicians weighing up their contributions equally meticulously. There is an expectancy that presages the passion to come; and when the main Allegro swings in, you’ll know that Martha Argerich doesn’t countenance polite music-making. She never did. But the fiery soloist of yore is now a fiery though highly considerate team player, co-operating with her partners without subjugating her volatile artistic personality. And she unflinchingly squares up to the manic volatility of Schumann himself, which Nicholas Angelich, pianist in the D minor Trio, cannot entirely bring himself to do.
Nevertheless, if Argerich isn’t always a presence (she plays in only two works), she is a persuasive instigator, reminding her mainly young friends of what is clearly her own philosophy – that playing safe eliminates the risk-taking necessary to reach the core of a piece of music. So there are no safe performances, the element of “Argerich inspiration” goading the musicians to extend their technical expertise into the arena of unfettered, yet disciplined, expression.
Generally intelligent microphone balancing aids concentration; and it is probably a tribute to the artists that variable sound and varying transfer levels do not get in the way of an occasion that ends with Schnittke’s intrepid Violin Sonata and Friedrich Gulda’s wacky Cello Concerto. That runs a gamut of styles, from Weber-like horn sonorities to jazz, and is sure to raise a few chuckles.