Any opportunity to hear Martha Argerich play, even on DVD, is a special occasion. There is something about her playing that ignites excitement in her listeners. Part of that, aside from her magnificent musical gifts, is her somewhat enigmatic persona, with her shyness, her frequent cancellations, her absences from the concert stage for years at a time, her reluctance to play primarily as a soloist and so on. Here, on this DVD, we have the pleasure of seeing her in a live performance on January 27, 2005 at Sumida Triphony Hall, Tokyo, in which she honors her most important teacher, Friedrich Gulda, the one from which she says she learned the most. Gulda is especially revered in Japan, so this is a fitting venue. She is joined by Gulda's two pianist sons, Paul and Rico; Rico is from his second marriage to Yuko Wakiyama, and he, too, is particularly well-known in Japan. Argerich is joined as well as by another set of brothers, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, violin and cello, among her most frequent chamber music partners. The New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by its music director, the Austrian Christian Arming.
The program, featuring, with one exception, music by Mozart is a little odd in that aside from full works there are some single movements presented. The program:
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K466, with Argerich as soloist. If ever there was a Mozart concerto created for the likes of Argerich it would be this one as it is Mozart's most dramatic. She dazzles, and is given superb support by the young orchestra.
Mozart: Concerto for Three Pianos in F Major, K242, with Argerich and the Guldas - the third movement of this rarely heard work features a three-piano cadenza with the same melody as the one from the familiar Concerto No. 21 in C which was made universally familiar in the film, 'Elvira Madigan'.
Beethoven: Triple Concerto, Op. 56, third movement, Argerich, the Capuçons - gorgeous playing. Clearly the three soloists are in complete accord.
Mozart: Adagio in E Major, K261, and Rondo in C Major, K373 - Renaud Capuçon, violin. The Adagio was a replacement, requested of Mozart by a soloist, for the adagio of the Violin Concerto No. 5. It is sometimes heard alone or in place of the movement usually played. The early Rondo is the last piece Mozart wrote before leaving Salzburg for Vienna. There is no questioning why Capuçon is one of the fastest-rising young violinists in today's music world; he is simply marvelous.
Mozart: Symphony No. 32 in G Major, K318. This is a dramatic, rarely heard symphony whose three movements are played without pause, rather like a typical opera overture of the period and indeed there are some who wonder if it wasn't composed for that purpose. It lasts only ten minutes, again like a typical Mozart opera overture. It is given a pellucid performance by this orchestra of young Japanese musicians.
There is, finally, a three-minute 'behind the scenes' track that shows snippets of rehearsal and backstage talk. I was charmed by the still photograph of the very young Argerich with Friedrich Gulda. And I liked the little bit where Argerich talks with Gulda's sons about how important their father had been to her.
This is definitely a keeper for anyone who is smitten with Argerich. The music-making is all first-rate, too.
Running time: 112mins; Sound: LPCM stereo; Format: 16:9; The brief spoken bits are in English with subtitles in French, German, Spanish.