, April 2009
This magnificent live concert, taped in Tokyo in 2005, provides a fine opportunity to see and hear the performer some of us regard as the finest female classical pianist and perhaps even the finest living pianist period. The opportunity is special because the legendary Argerich seldom performs as a soloist, cancels concerts frequently and aside from her annual chamber music festival in Lugano, Switzerland, sometimes remains off the stage for lengthy periods of time.
This was a special concert honoring the teacher of the Argentine pianist, the great Friedrich Gulda, who passed away in 2000. Gulda wanted to die on the same day his musical hero Mozart had died, and did. This all-Mozart (except for one selection) program features—playing with Argerich in the three-piano concerto—two of Gulda’s three sons. Both are well known in Japan, as was Gulda himself, and the Japanese orchestra is conducted by its young music director who is also Austrian (as was Gulda)—Christian Arming. Yet another brothers act is represented by the violin and cello soloists in the Beethoven movement and the Adagio and Rondo of Mozart—the Capucon brothers, who frequently perform with Argerich in her chamber ensembles.
The Mozart Concerto No. 20 is a standout in the literature as being one of the composer’s most dramatic, partly due to his departure from the norm in writing it in a minor key. Argerich is superb in the work and the young orchestra musicians support her performance beautifully. For the three piano concerto the three Steinways are nested very snugly with one another, which facilitates visual communication among the three pianists, but minimizes a more interesting spatial separation of the three pianos.
The Rondo all polacca closing movement from the Beethoven Triple Concerto may seem an odd departure in the program, but it presents a chance for Argerich and the two Capucon brothers to shine in their solo parts. The Adagio and Rondo display the dazzling virtuosity of violinist Renaud Capucon even more than had the concerto movement. The closing Mozart symphony will be something of a surprise to many listeners. It is only ten minutes long—shorter than the Beethoven movement—with its three brief movements played without pause. Yet it uses the full orchestra and has plenty of dramatic verve. It’s more like an Italian overture to an opera.
The videotaping (by NHK) is excellent, with good variation of long shots and closeups, and its hi-def resolution transferred well to the standard DVD. The DTS surround is natural and involving, especially so in the three piano concerto, in spite of the closeness of the three instruments. The very short Behind the Scenes clips are also worth seeing. Anyone interested in the art of Argerich will want to have this concert DVD.