Martha Argerich

Martha Argerich and Friends: Live from Lugano 2010

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Martha Argerich's involvement with chamber music has dominated the later part of her career, so it's easy to think of her name with the words "and friends" tacked on, and to visualize the large and diverse retinue of famous musicians who have recorded with her. This triple-disc box set from EMI Classics presents live recordings from the 2010 Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano, several of them collaborations with Argerich, notably in works by Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Béla Bartók, as well as a performance of Frédéric Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, where she is the featured soloist with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. Fans of Argerich, for whom money is no object, may buy this set on the strength of these four recordings, overlooking the eight other performances that do not include her. But other listeners may balk, feeling that the packaging is misleading and the program is lopsided, offering much less of Argerich than the title and cover photo suggest. In any event, these performances are a mixed lot in a program that includes loud, bravura playing and quieter pieces and subtler reflections, and from a roster of some of the leading musicians regularly performing in Europe. Violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Gautier Capuçon are perhaps the best known, and each performs with Argerich in pieces by Schumann. Celebrated pianist Stephen Kovacevich also joins Argerich in the Bartók Sonata for two pianos and percussion, so this certainly is noteworthy for the match-up. But the rest of the set should be sampled before purchase, because name recognition is not enough to guarantee satisfaction. EMI's sound quality is good, considering the concert venue.

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