Martha Argerich, a legend since her teens, ranks today among the most charismatic of all classical artists. Her 80th birthday on 5 June 2021 offers the perfect opportunity for music-lovers worldwide to express their gratitude for her achievements and reflect on the extraordinary qualities of her pianism.
“Anyone who has heard Martha Argerich in concert or listened to her albums, often on repeat, will know what an exceptional artist she is,” comments Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “Each of her albums for Deutsche Grammophon – a discography built over the course of almost sixty years – uncovers depths of expression and understanding that only truly great performers can reach. She has revealed her remarkable musicianship in recordings for DG of everything from Bach, Bartók and Beethoven to Ravel, Shostakovich and Stravinsky, not just as an enchanting soloist but also as a generous chamber music partner. We wish her a very happy 80th birthday and look forward to enjoying many more years of her inspired and inspiring artistry.”
Deutsche Grammophon is set to mark the occasion with a three-fold tribute: a new Debussy album, on which she appears with her friend Daniel Barenboim, a special edition of Martha Argerich · Chopin: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, and the reissue of Martha Argerich: The Complete Recordings for Deutsche Grammophon.
Featuring four works by the composer, Claude Debussy is scheduled for release on 4 June. Michael Barenboim and Kian Soltani partner with Daniel Barenboim in the Violin Sonata and Cello Sonata respectively. Maestro Barenboim conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin in La Mer, and orchestra and conductor are joined by Martha Argerich in her first recording of the Fantaisie – an early work that remained unperformed until after Debussy’s death in 1918.
Born in Buenos Aires within 18 months of each other, Argerich and Barenboim first made music together in 1949. This performance of the Fantaisie, a piano concerto in all but name, was recorded live in Vienna at a concert celebrating the centenary of Debussy’s death. Its brilliance reveals the creative sparks generated by the unique artistic relationship enjoyed by Argerich and Barenboim – as noted by the Guardian (London), “Barenboim brings out the best in her, she in him.”
Devoted followers of Argerich and new fans alike can also explore the exceptional beauty of her studio, live and radio recordings of Chopin, a composer central to her repertoire. Martha Argerich · Chopin: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, issued on 7 May, distils the brilliance, authority and insight of her playing into five CDs and a single Pure Audio Blu-ray disc, remastered in high definition at 24-bit and offering three audio formats including the 3D surround sound of Dolby Atmos. As well as the physical edition, four e‑albums featuring Argerich’s most important Chopin recordings were released on 14 May and three e‑video albums will follow on 5 June. Finally, a limited and numbered 5-LP 180g vinyl edition of her solo and concerto recordings made for the Yellow Label between 1960 and 1980 was also released on 7 May.
Among the works included in the Complete Chopin editions are Argerich’s performances of Piano Concerto No.1 with the London Symphony Orchestra and Claudio Abbado, and No.2 with the National Symphony Orchestra Washington and Mstislav Rostropovich, as well as her masterful readings of selected sonatas, préludes, scherzos and mazurkas, among others.
As musician and journalist Wolfram Goertz notes in his essay for the Chopin edition, Argerich here represents “the female musketeer par excellence, a champion of the irresistible thrust, a daredevil who never loses her elegance. The axiomatic nature of her playing comes from an overwhelming stylistic self-assurance. She gleefully probes the obstacle course of style to its very limits – and occasionally even shifts those limits.” The artist herself sums up her relationship with the composer as follows: “When I don’t play Chopin for a while, I don’t feel like a pianist.”
Martha Argerich: The Complete Recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, comprising 48 CDs and a 150-page, richly illustrated booklet, proved a popular success at the time of its initial release six years ago. Back in stock in time for Argerich’s 80th birthday, the set offers listeners the chance to connect with the soul of her music-making over the years in solo, chamber and orchestral works by composers from Bach, Mozart and Beethoven to Ravel, Bartók and Prokofiev, to mention but a few. Spanning 55 years, this collection of her complete recordings for both DG and Philips provides the ideal survey of the eloquent musicianship of “the finest pianist alive today” (BBC Music Magazine).
Martha Argerich played her first piece on piano by ear a few months before her third birthday. She began taking lessons soon after and made news headlines in Argentina at the age of eight with a debut concert comprising Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor K.466, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.1 and Bach’s French Suite No.5. The fiery audacity of the young pianist’s playing was matched by the poetic sensitivity she brought to melodic phrasing and tonal shading.
Her international breakthrough was secured with wins at the 1957 Geneva International Music Competition and the Ferruccio Busoni International Competition. Argerich’s first all-Chopin album for the Yellow Label, made two years after her decisive victory at the 1965 International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, documents a young artist’s mercurial ability to mine the expressive depths of even the most familiar of compositions.
She has since recorded a wide-ranging repertoire for Deutsche Grammophon, encompassing chamber music with partners such as Gidon Kremer, Rostropovich and Mischa Maisky, and concertos with eminent conductors including Abbado, Bernstein and Dutoit, as well as a myriad of solo works. In recent years she has also devoted much of her time to supporting young musicians, passing on a legacy of romantic, tempestuous and endlessly expressive pianism.