Martha Argerich / Daniel Barenboim

Piano Duos II: Schumann, Debussy, Bartók

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The connections between Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim run deeper than the fact that they are both Argentines; Argerich studied with Vincenzo Scaramuzza, who also taught Barenboim's father, and the pianists both have Russian-Jewish-Argentine ancestry. They have the kind of instinctive understanding, coming from shared experiences, that makes for successful duo piano work, and that sets this live recording apart from the majority of superstar pairings. An additional bonus is what the booklet notes claim as "an intellectual standard that was uncompromising and unreliant on dramatic effect." You might think this means that the interpretations as a whole are a bit cool, and you'd be right. But Argerich and Barenboim bring a fairly rare work, Schumann's Six Studies in Canon Form, Op. 56, and they do it justice. These little pieces were originally written for organ or the now obsolete pedal piano (which ought to be revived by historical specialists); they were arranged for two pianos by none other than Debussy. Argerich and Barenboim bring a smooth clockwork feel to the music that's quite hypnotic; sample any one of the six as a way into this album. Debussy's En blanc et noir is also elegantly finished, and the Deutsche Grammophon live sound from the famed Teatro Colón is remarkably detailed. The Bartók Sonata for two pianos and percussion, Sz 110, doesn't stand out, but this is recommended for fans of these two defining artists of our time.

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