Brahms: Sonata for Two Pianos, Op. 34b; Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 1

Martha Argerich

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Brahms: Sonata for Two Pianos, Op. 34b; Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 1 Review

by James Leonard

This isn't the first time Martha Argerich has recorded Brahms' Sonata for pianos (2) in F minor, Op. 34b. The first time was in 1993 with pianist Alexandre Rabinovitch on a disc of Brahms' piano music for two players. This time it's with Lilya Zilberstein on a disc with Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor recorded at the 2002 Lugano Festival. Argerich's approach has not changed much in the intervening decade. She's still one of the most passionate, virtuosic, and inspired pianists in the world. Likewise she still plays the sonata with the freedom of a soloist, the sensitivity of a chamber musician, and the authority of a conductor leading her own private, pianistic orchestra. Zilberstein's more aggressive approach is noticeably different from Rabinovitch's accommodating style, but both are tempered in the white-hot fire of Argerich's playing. As a coupling, the other Brahms' four-hand pieces make more sense from a collector's point of view, but Argerich's fire-breathing performance of Mendelssohn's trio with the brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon is perhaps the most compelling recording of that piece ever made. EMI's sound is a bit more atmospheric than Telarc's. The upshot here is that both albums belong on the shelf of an Argerich collector. You can't have too much of a good thing.

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