There are times when I see and listen to an old recording, and my whole being smiles, as a consequence. Such is the case with an old recording by the legendary pianist Martha Argerich. She performs the following:
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19
Performed by Martha Argerich (piano), with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting.
This one-off partnership on record between the mercurial Argentinean pianist and scholarly Italian conductor may have looked unlikely on paper, but it struck sparks in early Beethoven, as the critical response at the time recognized.
Martha Argerich is, as Gramophone’s reviewer acknowledged in September 1986, a brilliant technician, ‘but there is also a fantastic streak in her make-up, a capacity for creative fantasy, which is needed if areas of these remarkable works are to be brought fully and vividly to life. In both these early concertos, her touch is light and expert’.
The pianist herself makes much the same point in a Swiss TV documentary, where she expresses bafflement that critics lavish such praise over her technique: she sees it as a means to an end. In this she would have won the hearty approval of the composer.
Classics Today wrote several years ago:
“Martha Argerich, piano. What is there to say? These accounts of Beethoven’s first two concertos remain very highly regarded and for good reason. They are exciting as hell.”
Here is Ms. Argerich performing this usic many years later: