Martha Argerich and Friends: Live from Lugano 2011

Martha Argerich

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Martha Argerich and Friends: Live from Lugano 2011 Review

by Blair Sanderson

The Martha Argerich Project, presented annually at Lugano, Switzerland, has yielded many exciting sets of live recordings for EMI, all starring its namesake but prominently featuring many musicians she enjoys working with, both established artists and rising talents. Live from Lugano 2011 encapsulates the tenth of these festivals, and this three-disc package offers selections by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Ravel, and a name new to many of the participants: Juliusz Zarebski. This 19th century Polish composer is represented by a piano quintet he composed a few months before his death in 1885 at age 31, and Argerich has recorded this piece for the first time here. The obscurity of the work may compel some listeners to play it first, and that's not a bad way to explore the set, which need not be appreciated in sequential order. Zarebski's music is not widely known, but the quintet's brooding Romanticism and passionate outpourings hold a special appeal that Argerich's fans will respond to immediately. Once the Zarebski work has been heard, the rest of the program can be absorbed at leisure. The mix of a piano concerto, chamber pieces, and keyboard works is evenly spread out, so there is little chance of aural fatigue, and the variety of musicians and styles keeps the tone of the proceedings fresh. Of course, there is a great deal of vigorous and splashy playing -- note especially Argerich's high octane performance of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major -- and rough edges abound with all this virtuosity, so don't expect the most polished or refined performances. EMI's sound is quite good for concert recording, though the focus on the instruments is a little variable, due to the microphone set-ups.

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