Martha Argerich, Chopin: The Legendary 1965 Recording

Justin Davidson

By Justin Davidson

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Chopin: The Legendary 1965 Recording

Martha Argerich

In 1965, a mercurial 24-year-old Argentinian pianist with a dense mane of dark hair strode into the Abbey Road studios in London and by the time she emerged a few days later, Chopin had been transformed from a frail sensualist into a composer of magnificent roars.

In which a mercurial 24-year-old soon-to-be superstar transforms Chopin

Since a copyright conflict kept it confined to the vaults, very few people actually heard that recording, and by the time it was released 35 years later, Argerich was a senior celebrity. But still today, it evokes a young pianist taking pleasure in her power and discovering exhilarating ferocity of Chopin's music. The A-flat Polonaise bubbles up out of the low register like molten rock. The final movement of the Third Piano Sonata opens with great gonging chords that build into a festive clangor. So intense is the energy of these performances that merely listening to it feels like an athletic feat. Later in life, Argerich would sometimes obliterate nuances in a stampede of notes but here she plays the Nocturne No. 4 with feathery caress, diaphanous rubato, and phrasing so immediate and spontaneous as to seem practically erotic.