Martha Argerich

Martha Argerich, The Collection, Vol. 1: The Solo Recordings

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If you don't already know these eight discs by Argentinean pianist Martha Argerich, you owe it to yourself to stop whatever you're doing and hear them because by common consent they represent a peak of postwar pianism. Argerich's technique knows no limits, and her personality as captured here knows no restraint. Thankfully these qualities are matched by Argerich's excellent taste, which prohibits her from lapsing into bathos or bombast. True, her Bach is extremely expressive, her Schumann wildly passionate, and her Liszt nearly explosive, but those qualities never topple from the razor's edge of balance or give in to self-aggrandizement. Whatever she brings out of the scores is intrinsic to the music, and there's nothing in her performances, no matter how extravagant or flamboyant, which cannot be justified. If you don't already know these recordings, try her 1960 reading of Prokofiev's Toccata and her 1975 account of Chopin's C sharp minor Prélude, Op. 45: the former's relentless drive and demonic energy are as overwhelmingly exciting as the latter's sustained phrasing and lyrical melancholy achieve an emotional summit. From 1960 to 1984 and from stereo to digital, Deutsche Grammophon's sound is as good as recorded sound gets: clear, clean, quiet, and immediate.

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