There is not much video documentation of the great pianist Martha Argerich in her prime, so it is fortunate that this program, taped for Canadian television in 1977, gives a three-dimensional view of her various strengths.... more » Ravel's Jeux d'Eau, which translates a fountain's flow and glitter into piano music, exemplifies the quality that most people notice first in her playing: dexterity and precision at breathtaking speeds. But there is also a fine awareness of the music's descriptive power. Liszt's moody Les Funerailles, in contrast, requires the ability to hold the music together as a coherent structure at very slow speeds, evoking a carefully defined atmosphere. This, too, she does splendidly. But the heart of the program is Schumann's Concerto in A Minor, one of the 19th century's greatest works in that form, rich in virtuoso display and heart-on-sleeve emotion and requiring fine rapport between soloist and orchestra. This disc fulfills all the music's potentials. --Joe McLellan« less
"So you've never been to a Martha Argerich concert? Well, here's your chance to experience--vicariously--that excitement in an Argerich concert that only a few fortunate listeners have--live. Thanks to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/VAI Video, we have on tape a record of that hurricane-like phenomenon of the piano during her prime (not that she's any less of a performer today!). It's now available in both VHS and DVD formats. I have the VHS copy for the moment, and for reasons I'll get to in a little bit, am intensely curious about the DVD version.But let's get to the concert itself. It was in 1977 that Ms. Argerich shared her prodigious pianistic gifts with the lucky CBC television audience. With the CBC Symphony Orchestra (led by the cool and collected Franz-Paul Decker) to back her up, she leaps into the Schumann "Piano Concerto in A Minor" with gusto. Ms. Argerich tosses it off with ease and aplomb, all the while moving you in its lyrical moments and thrilling you in its more showy parts. She thunders slowly and gravely at the start of Franz Liszt's "Funerailles," her hands later becoming a blur in the devilishly rapid passages. Maurice Ravel's beautiful and elegant "Jeux d'eau" wraps up the concert, and a more stirring and crystalline rendition of this difficult work will be hard to find.One is particularly struck by the ease and lack of pretense with which Ms. Argerich moves at the piano. She has none of that overemotional grimacing or excessive gesturing that annoys this viewer. To complement that, there is the excellent camera work on this program which avoids the common mistake of wasting so much footage on the musician's face, or on long, establishing shots. Instead, it focuses on a few orchestral musicians, and, of course, the soloist's wondrous hands and fingers doing their job--and a marvelous job it is they do. If only playing the piano were as easy as Ms. Argerich makes it seem. The only peeves I have with this video (at least with the VHS tape) is the substandard quality of the picture (muddy, flat colors; may have to do with the lighting in the recording studio) and of the sound (weak and harsh tones), which do not do justice to these fine performances. I wonder if the DVD version is much improved. Nevertheless......see a genius at work--buy this video."
A unique, must-have item for any Martha Argerich fan
Jefferson T. Packer | Taos, NM | 10/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, this DVD is just a copy of the original video. No, it's not in Dolby 5.1. Yes, there is some hiss and the sound quality is about right for 1977. No, it hasn't been "cleaned up" or restored (as far as I can tell) and no, there aren't any of the "extras" that we have all become accustomed to on DVD.Five minutes into watching this, you won't care.There are musicians. Then there are great musicians. And every so often in human history, someone comes along who seems to have a line into the mystery and majesty of the universe as expressed through music. Martha Argerich has (many) moments in this performance where she seems to be animated by the conductor of heaven's own choir, where it seems as if she has ceased to exist as a human being, and is simply a direct conduit for the divine.Any fan of great classical music will enjoy this DVD. One kind of fan in particular, however, will find it compelling to the point of near-hypnosis. If you have spent twenty or thirty years battling with the piano, struggling with your own limits as a pianist, trying to come to grips with the subtlety of Schumann, the intricacy of Bach or the majesty of Beethoven, this DVD will both inspire you, and drive you to despair.The average pianist is like someone who, over decades, has constructed a home-built airplane. They sit down at the keyboard, spin the propeller, and the whole contraption lurches into the air and moves about the sky with more or less grace depending on what kind of day the pianist is having. The return to earth is always something of a relief, and if the little plane is still in one piece, the pianist counts the flight a success.Now imagine the little plane has been tucked away in the hangar, and the pilot is walking home in the last rays of evening twilight. A motion catches his eye, and he stops to watch the woodland birds flying in, out, above and below the trees. They dart, flit and zoom in the still evening air, landing on branches or missing them by a hairsbreadth, chasing and catching bugs in mid-air, turning and diving and folding and spreading their wings so quickly the mind almost can't follow them. Theirs is a mastery of flight beyond all effort, beyond all conscious thought, into a place where movement and motion become one with the divine perfection that continually eludes (almost) all of us all our lives.Martha Argerich is one of those woodland birds; if you want to see her fly, this DVD is a perfect place to start."
Björn Östlund | SÖRÅKER, Sweden | 05/07/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the first movement the concerto is a bit dry and Argerich is not as involved as in other recordings. In the end of the second movement things starts to happen and there are some beautiful moments in the final. "Routine conducting" is an often used term but it suits Decker. However some members of the orchestra have some inspired moments, for exemple the oboe-playing in the second movement.But it is the solo pieces which are the real gems on this tape!Liszt's Funerailles have not been issued commercial as far as I known. To have it one video is a pleasure. A delight to see and hear. Argerich sings the slow melody without melancholy but with tension and drama. The famous left-hand octaves are so devilfast that the hands are barely visible...Ravel's Jeux d'eau is as impressionistic and colorful as ever. What a delight to have this video complement to the fine audio recordings.In all pieces the camera-work is very good. You will almost be able to write down the fingerings! Luckily there is place for that priceless smile of Ms Argerich too."
Dingbats | U.S.A. | 10/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The audio quality of this DVD, while not the best, is adequate, and is more than compensated by the rare opportunity of witnessing Argerich on the keyboard when she was young (this is a performance from the 1970s). Schumann's Piano Concerto is a standard piece in the repertory, and Argerich's rendition is sumptuous and satisfying. For me, however, the two solo pieces are the truly revelation.
The camera person gets an A for capturing the chameleonic changes of Argerich's hands on the keyboard. She makes it look so easy! Piano students everywhere should watch the way she effortlessly plows through the Ravel and Liszt. There is no tension anywhere in the playing apparatus--the suppleness of her wrist movements, the ease with which she uses her arms. Look at the way she effortlessly negotiates the two hands crowding in the same register in Jeux d'Eau. Spellbinding!"
One of the Best Martha Argerich Performances
BLee | HK | 07/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have just watched the same Schumann Concerto conducted by Bernstein with Vienna Philharmonic and the pianist was impressing. The pianist's name spells Justus Frantz who played with so with so much grace. But his name doesn't ring a bell! I ran a search and discovered that he had only recorded some four hands piano pieces with Eschenbach.And then only a couple of days later I go back to Martha's Schumann Concerto. The Canadian orchestra was no match for Berlin Philharmonic. Even the recording is inferior. But here you see every justification of Arrau's assessment on Martha Argerich that she is one of the two younger pianists, along with Barenboim, that he had ear for. She is dramatic and she builds up tension from an almost stoic start to a most powerful climax and by a variety of colours. She was even more expressive than Justus Frantz. Her Lizst has the same effect, the same contrast, and the same tension which is rather exciting. I even like her Liszt better than her Schumann.Yes, we have some ( a little only ) close-ups if the pianist but they provide good clues to what sort of mood or what sort of picture she was going to paint. It was not excessive by whatever standard, neither were her bodiy movements. All along, particularly the last two pieces, we have a lot of her hands. Again, it's very unique. Martha was wearing short sleeves we can see the whole of her hands. First, she has rather stiff wrists as opposed to what Arrau (or even Leschetisky) professed. Sometimes, for better effects, she would play with the fleshy part of her fingers with her hand(s) flat; for a particular effect, she would bend her wrist sideways so much; and for a fifth finger fortissimo, she would use the outside of her small finger instead of the finger tip!With her Jeux d'eau, while my memory of Richter's playing is still vivid, I must say Martha's colour and her delicate touch were almost as good as Richter. I am not a great fan of Martha, as she is not always consistent and her style doesn't cover a great deal of the whole piano repertoire. Despite it's shortness (only 47 min. ) and that it's not of the best 1977 production quality, in view of the scarcity of her footage and in view of her wonderful performance here and the excellent depiction of her hands, it deserves a 5 stars."