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Martha Argerich
Biography, CD and concert reviews

Concert at Tonhalle Zurich, January 26, 2001: Martha Argerich, piano and Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn under the direction of Jörg Faerber, conductor
W.A. Mozart: Overture of "Don Giovanni" KV 527, 1787
F. Schubert: Symphony no. 3 in F major D 200, 1815
R. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor op. 54, 1841/1846
 
Biography of Martha Argerich

Article added on February 2001


Martha Argerich was born in Buenos Aires in 1941. At 3, she played the piano for the first time. Two years later, she began taking piano lessons with Vicenzo Scaramuzza. At 8, she made her concert debut in Buenos Aires, performing works by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. She performed in Buenos Aires' Astral and Colón theatres. In 1955, she moved with her family of diplomats to Vienna in order to allow her to study piano with outstanding teachers. She received tuition from Friedrich Gulda, her principal mentor; her teachers also include Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Nikita Magaloff and Stefan Askenase.
 
In 1957, at 16, Martha Argerich won both the Geneva International Music and the Bolzano Competitions. She embarked on an intensive program of concerts. At 21, she suffered from depression for two years. She moved to New York and "didn't do anything". But, in 1965, she came back to win the Chopin Competition in Warsaw and the Polish Radio Prize for her performances of Chopin Waltzes and Mazurkas. Argerich credits Stefan Askenase and his wife with helping to lift her out of her depression and back into music. From 1969 to 1973, Argerich was married to conductor Charles Dutoit, with whom she remains good friends.
 
Martha Argerich rose to fame with her interpretations of the virtuoso piano literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. But her repertoire ranges from Bach to Bartók. She is probably the only pianist capable of setting her own conditions in the music market, recording only what she wants and with different labels.
 
In the early 1980s, Argerich turned to chamber music which stresses the interaction between musicians.  She often performs with Nelson Freire, Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich, Gidon Kremer and Mischa Maisky. Her appearances in the concerto repertory became rare and her solo recitals even rarer.
 
She also gives young artists a helping hand. In September 1999, the first International Martha Argerich Piano Competition took place in Buenos Aires, with her as the jury's president. In November 1999, the second Martha Argerich Music Festival took place in Japan, with concerts and masterclasses being given by Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky and Nelson Freire among others.
 
Martha Argerich's temper does not only show in her music, but also in her private live. Married only once, with conductor Charles Dutoit, she has three daughters, Lida, Annie and Stéphanie, from three different men.


 
CDs, albums, recordings by Martha Argerich
 
Here just a glimpse at a few of the many albums recorded by Martha Argerich. At 19, she performed Prokofiev's Toccata and Liszt’s Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody, an album which aroused Horowitz’s wonder.
 
In 2000, EMI released CDs with live recordings from a series of historic concerts in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, given in 1978, 1979 and 1992. One can hear that Argerich is no woman of musical compromise. Her repertoire ranges from Bach's Partita No 2 in C minor BWV 826 and Schumann's Fantasy Pieces op. 12 with their soft play of light and shadow to Ravel's black romantic cycle Gaspard de la nuit and Ginastera's Danzas argentinas op. 2. These CDs testify to her volcanic temper and intuitive playing - don't miss them!
 
From Teldec you can get Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor op. 54, released in 1994. It is the piece she performed in Zurich on January 26, see the review article below. On this CD, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under the direction of Nicolaus Harnoncourt played on a higher level than Jörg Faerber with the Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn. Argerich's piano playing is less improvised, inspired by the moment. Still, the performance is exuberant.
 
Deutsche Grammophon offers among others Argerich's recordings of works by Beethoven recorded with Giuseppe Sinopoli, Stravinsky's Les Noces with Leonard Bernstein, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no. 1 with Claudia Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, which was awarded the CD Compact Award in 1997. Her recordings of Prokovief's Sonatas 1 & 2 and Melodies op. 35b together with Gidon Kremer received the Tokyo Record Academy Award 1992, the Diapson d'Or 1992 and the Edison Award 1993. The Beethoven Violin Sonatas, also recorded with Kremer, received the 1985 Record Academy Award.


 
Concert review, Tonhalle Zurich, January 26, 2001
 
On January 26, the Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn (chamber orchestra) under the direction of Jörg Faerber, with Martha Argerich on piano, played the Overture from Don Giovanni by Mozart, Schubert's Symphony no. 3 and Schumann's Piano Concerto op. 54 at the Tonhalle Zurich.
 
The first part of the evening was solely performed by the Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn and its conductor. The orchestra, founded some 40 years ago, has recorded over 500 compositions in its history. Among them are Shostakovich's Concert for piano, trumpet and string orchestra and Haydn's Concert for piano in D major, recorded together with Martha Argerich (DGG).
 
The conductor Jörg Faerber was born in Stuttgart where he studied at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik. After eight years as Kapellmeister at the theatre, he founded the Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn, which has traveled nationally and internationally and gained a reputation.
 
In Zurich, the performance of Mozart's Overture of "Don Giovannai" KV 527, composed in 1787 and Schubert's Symphony no. 3 in F major D 200, composed in 1815, was solid, a touch too plain. Schubert's Presto vivace was probably the best moment before the break. Anyhow, the public appreciated it.
 
Of course, everybody was eager to see and hear Martha Argerich perform in the second part of the evening. Robert Schumann's Concert for piano and orchestra in A minor op. 54, composed in 1841 and 1845, had first been performed at Leipziger Gewandhaus in 1841 by Clara Schumann under the direction of Mendelssohn. The editor demanded a traditional concert form in three movements and, therefore, only in 1845, when Robert had added Intermezzo and Finale, did the Concert for piano and orchestra become a success.
 
Martha Argerich's instinctive playing came to full light in the central theme with its lyric-expressive nature, which suits the Argentinian born pianist's temper so well.
 
Although Argerich tried to control her rebellious nature in order not to embarrass the orchestra, it was often a job to hard for Jörg Faerber and the Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn to follow the pianist's spirited playing. Some may remember that, director Charles Dutoit had the same problems controlling her.
 
In the Allegro affettuoso, Argerich masterfully underlined the dramatic moments, bright colors went side by side with a romantic lyricism. In the Intermezzo, the orchestra was not able to render the music with the same delicious subtlety, but sometimes, especially in the duet between orchestra and piano, the contrast was even fertile.
 
Argerich's playing seemed, as always, spontaneous. The music was created with ease, it flowed naturally out of her, it seemed created out of a certain mood in a specific moment. In the final Allegro vivace, Argerich's virtuosity shone, without ever becoming an end in itself (
sheet music by Robert Schumann).

She honored the public's enthusiastic response to her performance with three encores, which built a sort of fourth part of the evening. She began with one of Domenico Scarlatti's Keyboard Sonatas, then played a lyric piece by Chopin in a subdued-romanticist manner and, in the end, offered a virtuous, extroverted and probably largely improvised composition by Bach, played at a frantic tempo. Martha Argerich remains a wonder, always able to surprise the listener. She does not simply play music, she is music.
 
Are you also sometimes in search of the right English, German, French or Italian
musical vocabulary? Help provides the Practical Vocabulary of Music in four
languages by Roberto Braccini (3rd ed., Schott Musik, 2000,  435 p.). Get it from Amazon.de.


Martha Argerich. Photos Copyright: DGG.
 

Martha Argerich. Photos Copyright: EMI Classics.
 







Martha Argerich, 1965. Copyright: EMI. 


Martha Argerich: The Legendary 1965 Recording. EMI. Get it from Amazon.de,  Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr.
 

Martha Argerich: Live from the Concertgebouw 1978 & 1979. EMI. Get it from Amazon.de,  Amazon.com,  Amazon.co.uk , Amazon.fr.
 

Martha Argerich: Live from the Concertgebouw 1978 & 1992. EMI. Get it from Amazon.de, Amazon.com, Amazon.fr.
 

Martha Argerich, Alexandre Ravinovitch: Mozart Klavierkonzerte Nrn. 10, 19, 20. 1999, Teldec. Get it from Amazon.de, Amazon.com
  

Martha Argerich, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Chamber Orchestra of Europe: Robert Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor op. 54 (also Concerto in D minor with Gidon Kremer). 1994, Teldec. Get it from Amazon.de, Amazon.com.
 

Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer: Prokofief Violin Sonatas 1 & 2, Melodies op. 35a. Deutsche Grammophon. Get it from Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.co.uk.
 

Martha Argerich, Michael Collins, Nelson Freire, etc.: Prokofief: Quintet op. 39; Liszt: Concerto pathétique; Bartók: Contrasts. Live recording, EMI. Get it from Amazon.de,  Amazon.com, Amazon.fr.
 

Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: Robert Schumann: Cellokonzert, Fantasiestücke. Deutsche Grammophon. Get the CD from Amazon.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.co.uk. -
Sheet music by Robert Schumann.


Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer: Beethoven Violin Sonatas 1-3. Deutsche Grammophon. Get it from Amazon.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk.
 

Martha Argerich; Dirigenten Riccardo Chailly und Kiril Kondrashin; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks: Rachmaninow Klavierkonzert 3, Tschaikowsky Klavierkonzet 1. Philips, 1995. Get it from Amazon.de, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr
.