Rachmaninov: Suite No. 2, Op. 17; Ravel: La Valse; Lutoslawski: Paganini Variations

Martha Argerich / Nelson Freire

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Rachmaninov: Suite No. 2, Op. 17; Ravel: La Valse; Lutoslawski: Paganini Variations Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Like her other duo-recording venture with pianist Alexandre Rabinovitch, this album again demonstrates why pianist Martha Argerich is the grand dame of two-piano works. This album, with pianist Nelson Freire, offers another interpretation of the Rachmaninoff Second Suite for Two Pianos as well as a transcription of Ravel's La Valse and Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme of Paganini. Unlike many other piano duos, Argerich and Freire are capable of drawing an amazingly convincing, almost symphonic sound out of their two instruments. The blend between the two artists is virtually organic; the difference between the two instruments is almost unidentifiable. The sound is amazingly clear and retains a dark, almost foreboding power. This rendition, which is slightly more aggressive and energetic than the Argerich/Rabinovitch recording, showcases the best of both profound technique and deep musical understanding. The Ravel is one of the few instances where a version for two pianos comes close to obtaining the same variety of textures and colors that the full orchestral version incorporates. Most impressive is an incredible range of dynamics, from pianissimos that make the listener lean forward to pay close attention to fortissimos that push you back in your seat. Concluding with a ravishing performance of the frenetic Lutoslawski, the only regret this album leaves is that there is not more to be heard from this accomplished duo.

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