Why is EMI re-releasing on its Great Artists of the Century series ofMartha Argerich's 2002 recording of Schumann's Piano Concerto coupled with her 1978 recording of solo works of Schumann, Ravel, and Ginastera? While there is no question that Argerich is one of the great pianists, it is uncertain which century these recordings belong to: the twentieth or the twenty-first?
Be that as it may, while a new release of a new recording by a great artist is always welcome, a re-release of a recording EMI first issued only a year earlier is perhaps not as welcome. Then as now, Argerich's playing is stupendous, but she walks all over Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana and thoroughly dominates the interpretation. While this is a passionate performance of the work, the passion is entirely one-sided.
Nevertheless, a new release by a great artist is always welcome even if it is more than a quarter-century old. And because Argerich has stopped playing solo recitals, the first release of even part of a solo recital is very welcome indeed, the more so because the performances are as good as it gets with Argerich. Here, alone on-stage, Argerich's passion is unrestrained, and her interpretations are perhaps the most passionate ever recorded. And that includes Argerich: even her stunning 1975 recording of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit can only equal but not surpass this recording for Dionysiac ecstasy and virtuosic rapture. EMI's live 2002 sound is warm and vivid. The live 1978 sound is distant but honest, right down to the audience's occasional coughs.