Every appearance by Martha Argerich is inescapably an event. She is such an exceptional pianist by any standard, and her visits anywhere were for many years such rarities that she long ago acquired a legendary status. But there is a problem.
The problem with Argerich’s appearances is not, as it once was, whether she would actually turn up. These days, she plays in the UK a lot – steely Liszt at this summer’s Proms, the Schumann concerto a few weeks later, and this Wigmore Hall concert, only her third appearance at the venue in 40 years. Argerich is back in January too, playing Prokofiev. It’s a bumper period for her legions of admirers.
The problem is that for many years now Argerich has been uncomfortable playing on her own in public. It’s certainly not that, at 75, she can’t any longer play the solo repertoire; her technique remains utterly formidable. It’s just that she nowadays seems to depend on the presence of other musicians to coax her out on to a public platform. Even then, she is visibly uneasy in the spotlight.
This can bring amazing musical rewards in concertos and chamber music. But it means that an Argerich appearance is now also dependent on the players with whom she shares the platform. That’s especially true in the tricky four-handed and two-piano repertoire that she has favoured recently with partners including Daniel Barenboim. And the truth about this joint 75th birthday concert with her fellow Argentinian veteran Alberto Portugheis is that the pairing proved too unequal.
Read more at The Guardian.