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In summer 2006, the incomparable Martha Argerich presented an all Schumann programme in honour of the great romantic composer’s anniversary year. The legendary Argentinean pianist was accompanied by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under its new “Kapellmeister” Riccardo Chailly.
Martha Argerich has long been hailed as uniquely imaginative pianists and she is definitely the right person to honour Schumann on the anniversary of his death 150 years ago, as she is especially well known for her interpretations of the 19th century repertoire.
“The Symphony… is…proof of the rapport that Chailly has established as the orchestra’s music director. The icing on the cake is the great Martha Argerich in one of her signature pieces. Throughout, her dialogue with the orchestra truly reflects the piano’s role as first among equals. Not to be missed…” Gramophone, July 2007
"Martha Argerich is one of the few truly charismatic musicians of our age, one whose presence onstage can generate a sudden mesmerism from the audience, as they begin to watch and listen in rapt silence. Some have called her the greatest female pianist of the day. A few might take it further, calling her the greatest pianist of all time, man or woman." Robert Cummings, Classical Net, 2006
If some copyright clown company takes this Youtube video down instead of understanding it as free marketing, this is the source:
SCHUMANN CONCERTO Op.54 Martha Argerich & GEWANDHAUSORCHESTER R.CHAILLY dir. LIVE
The DVD of the Große Concerte with Martha Argerich were recorded kive June 1 & 2, 2006 at the Gewandhaus, Leipzig. The DVD was released in October 2006.
There are only four reviews for this DVD on Amazon yet. But they all praise it. Here are two of them:
There are a number of things that are exceptional about this DVD. First, one can easily see the spaciousness and beauty of the concert hall, located at Augustusplatz next to the University of Leipzig. This new Gewandhaus zu Leipzig was built in 1981, while Leipzig was still part of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. However, when I first heard the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig in the mid-1970’s, they were playing in an auditorium near the Leipzig zoo. American and British planes severely damaged the old Gewandhaus zu Leipzig in a bombing raid in December, 1943. Second, the DVD demonstrates convincingly the outstanding abilities of Riccardo Chailly, the new conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Seeing and hearing him conduct is reassuring that he is the right man for the job. Being the principal conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra tends to groom one for greatness. Third, the entire DVD is either music that Schumann exclusively composed or music that other composers (Tchaikovsky and Ravel) orchestrated from Schumann’s piano music.
The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra still sounds like the great orchestra that it has always been. In 1991, Kurt Masur stated that 85% of the orchestra members were, as is he, alumni of the Leipzig Conservatory. Professor Andreas Schulz, administrative director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, told me that the orchestra has 185 members, large enough to have two separate concerts so long as one is not a Bruckner symphony and the other not an piece by Richard Strauss. In response, I would simply say, “Thank God for the conservatory.” The conservatory is the oldest in the world, started by Mendelssohn.
The Piano Concerto in A minor by Robert Schumann was written for a female concert pianist, his wife - Clara. Martha Argerich most ably substitutes for Clara, providing a very strong, sensitive, even lyrical interpretation, always being in control. It can be argued that Martha Argerich is the most qualified living pianist to play the Schumann piano concerto. Many years ago when I first heard Martha Argerich, I thought her playing to be bombastic pyrotechnics, and that she was sort of the female Lazar Berman. I can no longer consider that to be in any way correct. Seeing her silhouette while hearing her mastery, I had the fleeting impression that maybe I was hearing Clara. Her performance was clearly masterful, and the people of Leipzig responded to the excellence of that performance by giving her a very well deserved encore. Clara herself described this concerto as an intertwining of the piano and orchestra, so much so that one could not consider one without the other. This performance embodies that attitude. The performance is exquisite, with the customary dark, somber sound of the strings of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
Riccardo Chailly’s interpretation of the Symphony in D Minor, Opus 120 (1851 version) is beautiful and authoritative. He senses the subtleties of Schumann’s intent and evokes them for all to hear. Those conductors who have interpreted Schumann’s works with either the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra or the Dresden Staatskapelle seem generally to get it right. For example, Wolfgang Sawallish recorded the Schumann symphonies most beautifully with the Dresden Staatskapelle thirty some years ago. I very much like Kurt Masur’s interpretation of Schumann, and he has recorded the Schumann symphonies with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. As he did with New York, he has done with this orchestra. He has made it worth listening to, but it still does not have the sound of Leipzig.
I would like to hear Riccardo Chailly record all of the Schumann symphonies as Schumann himself wrote them. Right now, it’s one down, three to go. Chailly’s recordings of the Schumann symphonies rewritten and reorchestrated by Mahler reach the level of acceptability of elevator music as long as they are not played too loudly. One day, Gustav Mahler had a long walk with Sigmund Freud in the park and returned never to compose again.
This DVD is a recording of an actual concert in the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig, and, for that reason, it does not follow the order expected of two major pieces and several lesser pieces. The DVD begins with two piano pieces orchestrated by Tchaikovsky. The piano concerto is next, with a short encore, “Von fremden Landern und Menschen.” Then follows selections from Carnaval, orchestrated by Ravel. The concert ends with Schumann’s Fourth Symphony. To get to the piano concerto or the symphony directly, one must choose “Chapters” and choose where you want the music to start.
To true Schumann lovers, this DVD is a must. After all, Leipzig and Dresden were Schumann’s home territory. Historically, the piano concerto was first performed by the Dresden Staatskapelle. The Schumanns had recently moved from Leipzig to Dresden. Shortly after the Dresden performance, it was played by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. In both concerts, Clara Schumann was the pianist. The tradition starts there. The performances on this DVD certainly continue it.
Hubert S. Mickel
This is undoubtedly Argerich’s show. The dressy audience in the Gewandhaus give her a thunderous ovation after the concerto and equally after her tiny encore (‘Of foreign lands and people’ from ‘Kinderszenen.’) Surely Argerich is the reigning diva of international pianists and she does not disappoint here. The concerto is brilliant as one would expect, but there is a lyrical geniality in her playing, too, which seems to be something relatively new for her. Time was when she could be counted primarily for pianistic fireworks; now there are fireworks but also a singing line that makes one’s heart swell. She uses divided hands as always — with the right hand often coming in subtly a micro-beat after the left, typical of old style pianists but not so often heard these days — and her phrasing, with its agogics and rubato so delicately and unerringly applied, makes the music come alive. This is a marvelous traversal of this time-honored concerto. She makes the most of the rhythmic complexities, particularly those in the third movement, and the music comes out seeming fresher and more modern than it typically does. Still, Schumannesque gemütlichheit is in satisfying abundance. One is reminded again how Schumann used Beethoven as his model, with the short second movement leading without break in the finale (as Beethoven did in his Fourth Concerto) and the opening movement’s main theme acting as the bridge into the finale, as is the case with Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. But Schumann’s fingerprints are unmistakable throughout. For instance, the finale is in a graceful but energetic triple time that in the middle section alters accents so that it sounds as if in duple time, a place where conductors and orchestras famously come to grief (as Mendelssohn did in the concerto’s premiere). It creates no problems here for Chailly and the Gewandhaus; indeed, this is a breathtaking wind-up to this so-familiar concerto. If I had to characterize this performance in one word, and it surprises me to do so if only because I’m comparing it with Argerich’s previous CD recording with Harnoncourt, it would be ‘sunny.’ A lovely performance, worth having. The concert opens with an arrangement by Tchaikovsky of the Adagio and the Allegro brillante from Schumann’s solo piano work, ‘Études symphoniques.’ I’d never heard it before. While one can admire Tchaikovsky’s skill as an orchestrator (and at times it does indeed sound like Tchaikovsky rather than Schumann) it also reminds one of how Tchaikovsky’s own music sometimes owes something to Schumann. The Gewandhausorchester sounds rich and full here. After Argerich’s hushed encore, greeted with equally hushed but intense appreciation by the audence, another orchestration of Schumann piano music pops up, that by Ravel of four pieces from ‘Carnaval’ (listed as 1. Préambule. Quasi maestoso - Più moto - Animato - Vivo - Presto; 2. Valse allemande. Molto vivace; 3. Intermezzo. Paganini. Presto; 4. Marche des ‘Davidsbündler’ contre les Philistins. Non allego - Molto più vivo - Animato - Vivo - Animato moto - Vivo - Più stretto). Again, I had never heard these orchestrations before. Having myself played ‘Carnaval’ at the piano, I had some difficulty making the switch to the orchestral timbres, but once I did I realized what a creative and apt job Ravel made of his orchestration. This should come as no surprise as he was one of the twentieth century’s master orchestrators. Chailly is in tune with the lightning fast tempo and mood changes in this so-Romantic collection of character pieces. Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, written in 1841, was actually his second to be written but since he made revisions in 1851, after the Second and Third had been premiered, it has since been listed as the last of his symphonies. Brahms had the 1841 version published in the 1890s but it is the 1851 version we hear here. This symphony can have muddy textures if not lightened up either by very careful orchestral voicing or by re-orchestration (most famously done by Mahler). I am fairly sure this is the original orchestration, but the performance does not suffer from clotted textures as performed here. The work begins with one of Schumann’s subtlest masterstrokes — a five-octave A that begins on beat 3 of a 3/4 measure and then is held for three further measures. Its beginning on the last beat of a measure, which the listener without a score will not perceive as such, sets up a subtle uncertainty when one finally hears a downbeat. Schumann, of the composers of his time, had an almost unique ability to set up a slightly tense anticipation in the listener with the minutest of means. It is touches like this that mark out the genius composer. Since coming to the Gewandhaus only a couple of years ago, Chailly has taken the orchestra into more refined regions of playing. They were a mini-Berlin Philharmonic, very Germanic if a bit leaner, under Masur, and were somewhat Americanized under Blomstedt. Under Chailly they seem to be coming into their own and it is a blessing that we are now getting numbers of CDs and, importantly, DVDs of the group. Also, they seem to have more and more younger players and this appears to be all to the good. Brass are particularly good, tending to be much more subtle than anything heard in the past. The string sound has been richened. Indeed, I find no weak sections in the orchestra and am heartened by that. This is from a live concert that occurred only four months before the DVD was issued! And in the 1981 Gewandhaus — the third in a series of concert halls with the name — with its marvelous architecture and fine acoustics. Sound is state-of-the art and available in PCM Stereo, DD 5.1 or DTS 5.1. Videography is crystal clear and focuses, often in closeup, primarily on the musicians (always a plus for me) but there is plenty of opportunity to observe both Argerich and Chailly.