Variations on a Theme of Haydn [St Anthony Chorale], Op.56b
Symphonic Dances, Op.45
Rondo in A, D951 (Grand Rondeau)
La valse – poème choréographique
Martha Argerich & Nelson Freire (two pianos & piano/four hands)
Recorded 3 August 2009 in Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2009
CD No: DG 477 8570
Duration: 72 minutes
There can be no doubt that Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire are super-virtuosos; together they make a combustible duo, but they also offer playing that is sensitive and poetic and with mutually sympathetic musical aims; indeed an uncanny rapport exists between them that reports fire and ice as well as great expression in the music.
The Brahms is elegantly turned if occasionally harried along, the Rachmaninov then given a weighty response, one with emotional largesse and a delving into the composer’s infinite sadness and blistering exhortations; such volatility is vividly conveyed, the music a lava-stream of emotions played with nonchalant technical ability but also an affecting identification that compels, the listener not missing the composer’s subsequent and glorious orchestral version made for Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra; indeed, even in the relatively starker terms of two pianos, the music retains an enthralling power and impetuosity, although the duo might have sustained the final chord longer.
Following after just a few seconds, the affable Schubert piece (piano/four hands) is such a jolting contrast as to be shocking (if pleasantly so), although one soon adjusts to its scale and not least with appreciation of the delicate playing that it receives. Ravel’s La valse, unlike the Rachmaninov, doesn’t quite come off in its over-decorated two-piano version and one misses the hard-hitting orchestral denouement; furthermore, the pianists, however brilliantly in terms of execution, never really find the work’s darkness or overwhelming sense of destruction.
However, this release (of the ‘rush’ variety, recorded in August 2009 and issued in October), superbly recorded, is a magical demonstration of outstanding pianism and collegiate musicianship. One thing, the booklet note mentions an encore that these artists played once the right music had been found; we’re not even told what it was, but one imagines it was dispatched with the same alacrity as the rest of the programme, and the disc’s total playing-time suggests that there is enough room for it to have been included!