This is an excellent Rachmaninoff programme, taking us from the high romance of the relatively early Suite No. 1 to the composer’s last opus numbered work, the Symphonic Dances. The Suite No. 1 is a very fine work, and this duo plays gorgeously in that sighing third movement Les larmes. The spectacular finale, Pâques rings out spectacularly, the powerful tone of the well paired pianos delivering a remarkable listening experience.
Pianists Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire are stupendous virtuosos, and there's nothing in this recording of their 2009 Salzburg recital of staggeringly difficult works they cannot play. They know each other so well as old duo piano partners that their playing is stunning in its unity, but their distinctive individuality also comes across. What's most impressive about this recital is how completely Argerich and Freire have made this music their own. Brahms' Haydn Variations sound freer and fresher, more playful, and more profound than ever. Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances are thrillingly rhapsodic, rapturous, and dramatic. Schubert's Grand Rondeau is more lyrical, intimate, and graceful than usual, and Ravel's La Valse more ecstatic and apocalyptically over-the-top frightening than in any comparable recordings, including Argerich's own earlier releases. Captured in wonderfully clear yet wholly present digital sound, the performances on this disc will be compulsory listening for anyone who loves music, any music.
“Unquestionably one of the greatest pianists of all time” is how Gramophone magazine has described Martha Argerich. Her relationship with Warner Classics goes back to 1965 and her victory at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Over several decades it has produced a rich catalogue of live and studio recordings, embracing a repertoire that spans three centuries, a diversity of genres, and collaborations with such figures as Renaud Capuçon, Charles Dutoit, Nelson Freire, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky and Itzhak Perlman.
Like the legendary pianists of the 19th and early 20th century, such as Sigismund Thalberg, Franz Liszt, Leopold Godowsky, and Ignace Jan Paderewski, it often sounds as if Marc-André Hamelin has more than 10 fingers. His ability to play fiendishly difficult music, make it sound as if it's a stroll in the park, yet imbue it with musical sensitivity makes him worthy of the description "super-virtuoso" by The New York Times' Harold Schoenberg. Hamelin studied at the Vincent d'Indy School of Music in Montréal with Yvonne Hubert, a pupil of Cortot, then received bachelor's and master's degrees at Temple University, working under Russell Sherman and Harvey Weeden.
Since she won the seventh International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in 1965 at the age of 24, this Argentine concert pianist has mostly avoided the limelight; she remains, however, one of the greatest interpreters of classical music.
This is a wonderful collection of all the great composer's known works, and is a must buy for anyone who enjoy's Rachmaninoff. While most of the recordings are not perhaps the absolute best that are out there, they are all still, for the most part, quite good. The only real issues I can find with this set are two rather small ones. On the recording of the symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead, there is an odd static-like sound that starts at about 17 minutes into the piece, which then disappears briefly, before reappearing once more. It is rather irritating, especially considering that the rest of the recording is very nice.