Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1; The Nutcracker-Suite
Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto has already appeared twice on disc from Martha Argerich in complementary performances: live and helter-skelter on Philips with Kondrashin, studio and magisterial with Dutoit on DG. Now, finely recorded, here is a third, live recording with the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado surpassing even those earlier and legendary performances. Argerich has never sounded on better terms with the piano, more virtuoso yet engagingly human. Lyrical and insinuating, to a degree her performance seems to be made of the tumultuous elements themselves, of fire and ice, rain and sunshine. The Russians may claim this concerto for themselves, but even they will surely listen in disbelief, awed and – dare I say it – a trifle piqued. Listen to Argerich’s Allegro con spirito, as the concerto gets under way, where her darting crescendos and diminuendos make the triplet rhythm speak with the rarest vitality and caprice. Her nervous reaching out towards further pianistic frays in the heart-easing second subject is pure Argerich and so are the octave storms in both the first and third movements that will have everyone, particularly her partners, tightening their seat belts. The cadenza is spun off with a hypnotic brilliance, the central Prestissimo from the Andantino becomes a true “scherzo of fireflies”, and the finale seems to dance off the page; a far cry from more emphatic Ukranian point-making and brutality.
For encores DG have reissued Argerich’s 1983 performance of The Nutcracker where she is partnered by Nicolas Economou in his own arrangement, a marvel of scintillating pianistic prowess, imagination and finesse. Like Shakespeare’s Ariel, Argerich “flames amazement” at every point yet leaves a burning question. While it is understandable that she does not wish to record, say, the 32 Beethoven sonatas or the complete piano music of Liszt, surely somebody somewhere can tempt her back into the studios in her own right: time marches on and the years and opportunities slip inexorably past. '