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Beethoven: Piano Concertos No. 2 & 3
Ludwig van Beethoven, Claudio Abbado, Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concertos No. 2 & 3
Genre: Classical
The great Martha Argerich here plays Beethoven's Second and Third Piano Concertos. The latter is a work she's performed only twice before (and not for well over 20 years). There are plenty of fireworks in the outer movemen...  more »


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The great Martha Argerich here plays Beethoven's Second and Third Piano Concertos. The latter is a work she's performed only twice before (and not for well over 20 years). There are plenty of fireworks in the outer movements, but all is not well between conductor Claudio Abbado and Argerich. In general, his approach seems to be mellower than hers; while she's emoting all over the place, say, in the first movement of the Third, Abbado is moderate and literal, keeping almost all vibrato out of the string section of the orchestra. In addition, the recording invariably favors Argerich and much orchestral detail is obscured. The listener, however, can't deny the excitement, and Argerich plays the middle movements of both concertos rhapsodically. The Second is altogether more successful, with every phrase delivered naturally, as if the piano knows instinctively where to go. This is for Argerich fans--an interesting release. --Robert Levine

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CD Reviews

Argerich not at her very best, but fascinating
David Ramos da Silva | BELGIUM | 12/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This new album brings together two Beethoven Concertos : the second (actually the first written by the composer) and the famous third in C minor. Both concertos were recorded during live performances, in Ferrara (Italy), and for both, the legendary Martha Argerich was followed by her long-time friend Claudio Abbado, conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

The agitation over this album comes from the fact that it is Martha Argerich's first-ever recording of Beethoven's third. It is also relevant to note that the argentinian pianist had performed this work, according to the booklet, only twice in her life, the last one dating back to the late 1970s. For a first attempt in more than 20 years and for a live performance, the result is more than satisfying.

In the first movement, Argerich gives, in my opinion, a very expressive and dramatic rendition, while Abbado is somewhat more temperate and direct. This combination of "fire and water" works pretty well, as both approches tend to mix together towards the end of the movement, just before the tutti that leads to this increadible coda : in the first section, Martha Argerich manages to play these arpeggios faster than anybody I have heard so far, while in the second theme, she is extraordinary expressive, and in the conclusion, she is just poignant. However, I found a bit sad that right after the coda, she didn't manage to play the arpeggios clearly (not difficult enaugh for her?). But overall, the first movement was for me thrilling.

The second movement was in my opinion the best version I have ever heard. What was the most amazing for me was Argerich's quality of sound from the beginning to the end, and also her ability to recreate the piece as if it was being composed while she was playing.

As for the third movement, I was a little disappointed because it wasn't fast enaugh in my opinion (which is a bit surprising when you think of Argerich's usual demonic tempos in last movements), although it was fresh and sometimes seemed almost improvised. The performance was of course a huge succes, as you might imagine.

The Second Concerto is a work Martha Argerich has always performed a lot in her long career, and one notices it immediately. Everything seems so natural and spontaneous in her playing, as she manages to play with so many different dynamics, textures and moods. It just really makes you stop and listen. Compared to her, I found Gillels boring (!), although his version is great.

To conclude, I would highly recommend this album, definitely for the Second Concerto, but also for the Third which, if not perfect, is just amazing."
Magic Indeed!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 12/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Collaboration between soloist and conductor and orchestra is the key to superlative performance. One can place a headstrong soloist in front of a fine ensemble with a conductor whose vision of a work is fixed in place and no matter how fine each of the three components is individually, if they are not aligned the result is uninspired.

So with Marta Argerich whose relationship with Claudio Abbado has sustained accolades over the years joins with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra it seems a foregone conclusion that the synchrony will be there. And so it is with this CD of the Beethoven Second and Third Piano Concerti. From the opening measure to the last in each concerto there is a rightness of line, of balance, of lightness, of profundity, of technical brilliance and of spirituality that is matched by very few other recordings of these beloved works. Argerich is fluid, allowing the slow movements to evolve into an almost translucent presence, yet comes forth in the velocity courses with all the drama and fire that have marked her remarkable career.

Abbado knows the fine line between accompanying and co-creating and his precise control over the fine Mahler Chamber Orchestra adds space and breadth and excitement to these works. If this recording doesn't receive many awards then there is no justice! A splendid experience. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, December 05"
Fire and Ice
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Martha Argerich is undoubtedly one of the greatest pianists of our age. Claudio Abbado is clearly one of the greatest conductors of our age. What happens when the fiery Argentine Argerich plays with the cool and elegant Abbado? A combustion that shouldn't happen, but does, somehow. Argerich had never recorded the Third Concerto, and had only played it a handful of times before this live recording. In the first movement Abbado's classicist leanings are at odds with Argerich's almost willful fireworks. And yet it works. Don't ask me to explain that. But, rather like Orpheus taming the Furies in the Fourth Concerto, by the second movement, that lovely island of serenity, Argerich plays her opening solo so slowly, so elegantly, so achingly that time stands still. How she makes the piano sing! And how she manages it at that tempo is beyond understanding. But I can tell you that it is spellbinding. This is indeed a Fury turned into an Orpheus of our age. The Rondo starts at a moderately fast tempo, but seems to get faster and more exciting as it proceeds, and strangely this acceleration seems to come primarily from Abbado in the orchestra's first tutti. Indeed, at one spot later on Argerich gets marginally behind the orchestral onrush. No matter. This is a live concert with, as far as I know, no retakes, and one is caught up in the spirit of the moment. An exhilarating experience.

Our pianist has played the Haydnesque Second Concerto (actually, the first Beethoven wrote, begun way back in 1788) many times in her career. That has always struck me as a little odd, considering how fiery the pianist is and how classically restrained this concerto is. But in this performance she is totally at ease and plays in a patrician manner not usually associated with her. This reminds me of a long-ago recording by pianist Artur Balsam, a lamentably almost forgotten pianist, in its combination of composure and subtle drama. This time there is no conflict between pianist and orchestra; Abbado and Argerich are on the same wave-length throughout. Argerich's pearly runs, rock-steady tempi and particularly the time-stopping second movement cadenzas are beauteous to behold; the subtlety of Abbado's phrasing is equally remarkable. The young Mahler Chamber Orchestra, a group that Abbado has a special relationship with (as he has with other European orchestras with young players), play with grace, precision and élan.

This is a superb coupling, worthy of inclusion in any Beethoven collection. One hopes that Argerich/Abbado/MahlerCO will complete the set of the five concerti some time soon. And in live performances, to capture the excitement of the moment.

Enthusiastically recommended.


Scott Morrison"