Tuesday 11 March 2014

Incomparable performances of Mozart concertos from Martha Argerich and Claudio Abbado given at last year’s Lucerne Festival and released on Deutsche Grammophon

Claudio Abbado’s death earlier this year took from us one of the finest musicians of our time, leaving us with no prospect of further performances.
http://theclassicalreviewer.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/claudio-abbado-dies-at-age-of-80.html . It also brought to an end a long term musical relationship with the great pianist, Martha Argerich http://marthargerich.blogspot.co.uk

Yet no sooner had these sad thoughts been going through my mind when a live recording arrived from Deutsche Grammophon that highlighted the fact that Abbado will always be with us through his numerous recordings.

This new release again brings together Abbado and Argerich and was recorded at last year’s Lucerne Festival and marks Argerich’s first recording of solo concertos by Mozart on Deutsche Grammophon. Samples from this new release are available at www.deutschegrammophon.com/gb/cat/4791033

479 1033

The Allegro maestoso of Piano Concerto No.25 in C major, K503 has a muscular opening, before some beautifully turned phrases from Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart. When Argerich enters there is a lovely moment when pianist and orchestra interweave to perfection. Argerich’s touch is exquisite as is her sense of Mozartian flow. I love both Argerich and Abbado’s sense of balance between strength and grace that has silky smooth strings against Argerich’s often hushed piano tone. How good it is to hear Friedrich Gulda’s cadenza especially as played here.

Orchestra Mozart provide some lovely woodwind passages in the Andante and there is some ravishing playing from Argerich, so beautifully controlled and phrased, with such sensitivity, creating a magical world. Argerich highlights some hidden beauties, yet for all this there is an underlying strength to her playing.

Argerich has a real spring in her step in the vibrant Allegretto. These two artists work phenomenally well together with lovely dovetailing all the little orchestral phrases and such expressivity.

With the Allegro of Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466 again Orchestra Mozart bring a weight to the sound, balanced by a silken transparency. When Argerich enters there is the feel that she is exchanging little confidences. Those who have only ever heard Argerich in the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov concertos and are not aware of her chamber music work, will be surprised with the chamber like nature of some of this playing. As the music builds in dynamics, Argerich brings all her strength without foregoing poetry. There are some terrific scales and chords as well as pinpoint clarity from Argerich. Thank goodness we can get to hear Argerich play the Beethoven cadenza. Over the top and out of proportion this Beethoven cadenza is, but it is thrillingly played.

There is a beautifully nuanced Romance with Argerich providing both poetic and muscular moments, as do the Orchestra Mozart. Again there are passages of exquisite beauty with this pianist showing all of Mozart’s changeable moods. There is more, lovely woodwind playing towards the end and beautifully judged string passages.

Pianist and orchestra throw themselves into the Rondo. Allegro assai with gusto. There is terrific playing from Argerich and the orchestra, full of spontaneity and life, an absolute joy. Argerich again opts for the Beethoven cadenza giving us such a full and flowing sound with some lovely rubato.

My shelves are laden with Mozart concerto recordings from Ashkenazy, Barenboim and Brendel to Perahia, Pires and Richter, to name just a few. But this is something special. Not just a special partnership, though that is something worth remembering, but for the incomparable performances recorded here.

The engineers have done a fine job in capturing the exquisite piano tone in this live concert. The rousing applause is kept in but, otherwise, I could detect no obvious audience noise, which is not surprising given these intoxicating performances.

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