Martha Argerich Concert – The Times

Posted on July 12, 2013

Martha Argerich
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
4/5 stars

Would she actually turn up? And had she ever played in Manchester before? Well, yes and yes – but that was all of 50 years ago. Martha Argerich made a last minute programme change form Shostakovich to Beethoven; but she didn’t cancel, and she gave one of the best performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.1 that I’ve heard in my life.

This was the midpoint in the Manchester International Festival, and Gábor Takács-Nagy, now director of the Manchester Camerata and clearly a musical soulmate of Argerich, had doubtless had a hand in it all. He introduced her with an orchestral tutti of rare delicacy and fitnesse. And her own fallible, glistening clarity and sheer glee at Beethoven’s brilliance and wit was met by gentle playing too, supple enough to hint at the predictable and to make us wonder whether we had ever actually heard this piece before.

In the slow movement we hardly knew where she was taking us. The music developed as though extempore: a sanctification, as it were, of pianistic decoration and transformation. And Takács-Nagy encouraged his players to respond with the most finely nuanced chamber music-making. The finale – every entry faster and sooner than expected, led to whooping ovations prolonged enough to draw from Argerich the most bubbling of Schumman’s Fantasiestücke as an encore. Argerich’s appearance had been framed, artfully, by two concertos for orchestra with piano, giving a welcome platform to the 28-year-old French pianist David Kadouch. First came a wonderfully idiomatic performance of Bartók’s Music for Strings, percussion and Celeste. And, finally, Arvo Pärt’s Lamentate, a major orchestral work from 2002, its ten short movements menacing, consoling and tormenting in turn, marbled by marimba, and with some exquisite playing from Kadouch.

Read the full review here

The Times – Martha Argerich concert, Hilary Finch, critic – The Times