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Bach: Toccata; Partita; English Suite No. 2

This is quite simply as great a recording of Bach (performed on a piano) as one can get. Mrs. Argerich is at least as good as Gould (some might say far better than Gould) or any other performer of Bach. This is truly an astonishing recording, one I had the good fortune of hearing frequently when I was growing up. No other recording artist has ever surpassed this performance, and when I play Bach, the lessons I learned from hearing this recording continue to resonate, at least to the extent I am able to ring that bell, heh. If you don’t own this, you should. Check it out!

Product description ARGERICH MARTHA BACH: TOCCATA IN C A lot of pianophiles have been waiting for the reissue of this 1980 LP, Argerich’s only Bach recording. She played the same Partita at her Carnegie Hall recital in the Spring of 2000, suggesting that she just doesn’t play much Bach. These performances have the pianist’s typical intensity of approach. Her fingers do the talking, with some dazzling clear articulation reminiscent of Glenn Gould on a good day, and she seldom blurs any of the textures. She also has a very good feeling for Bach’s dance rhythms; the closing Gigue of the Partita makes you want to jump up and put on your dancing shoes. Argerich uses an unusually wide dynamic range for Bach, and some of the dreamy slow movements won’t be to the taste of all listeners. Nobody, though, will be able to ignore these performances; while they are playing, they seem like the only way to do it. The 1980 sound is still fine, and although the disc is LP length (50 minutes), the price is right. –Leslie Gerber




Bach: Toccata; Partita; English Suite No. 2 Review


When Martha Argerich recorded this music in 1980 it must have been the Age of Aquarius. What a beautiful recording. Her rendition of Bach’s Toccata BWV 911 surpasses any of Bach’s keyboard music I’ve heard. Dubravka Tomsic’s Toccata BWV 912 is also great, but Argerich’s 911 is greater. Glenn Gould would have to come in third with these pieces. Why is Argerich the best? Because she has heart. She plays with love of Bach and love of humanity. (This may be redundant. ) Tomsic’s precision is not without feeling, but Gould is not humane. He was a genius, of course, and he could make your mind dance. But Glenn Gould could not enter your heart nor the heart of Bach. About four minutes into the Toccata Argerich plays the first of Bach’s counterpoint passages on this disc and enters the realm of mystic crystal revelation. The space-time continuum is transcended. As time stands still Argerich and Bach create perfect forms of sound – nothing like the world mess and ourselves in it. Such transcendences occur frequently throughout this recording. Martha Argerich was born in 1941 in Argentina . She was a child prodigy, playing the piano at age three and giving her debut concert at age eight. In 1965 she made her first recordings, including works by Chopin, Brahms, Ravel, Prokofiev and Liszt. Her technique has been described as “formidable” and has been compared to that of Vladimir Horowitz. She has had a life-long aversion to the press and to publicity. As a result, she has remained relatively unknown to the general public. But to lovers of classical piano she is widely recognized as one of the great piano virtuosos of our time. Just about the time of this Bach recording, Argerich frequently remarked that she felt “lonely” during solo performances. She then started focusing on orchestral and chamber music, accompanying instrumentalists in concertos and sonatas. This is her only solo recording of Bach. She performed one more recording of Bach; cello sonatas with Mischa Maisky, which is also excellent. These are her only two Bach recordings. They are priceless gems. And love will steer the stars -Read Reviews-

This is quite simply one of the most outstanding Bach recordings I have ever heard. Ms Argerich’s virtuosity was no surprise to me, I have long admired her romantic work, as exemplified by her outstanding Rach 3, however her sensitivity for Bach has left me stunned. That she has recorded so little seems criminal in retrospect. Her approach is direct and percussive with an amazing grasp of the complex relationship between tempo and rhythm that pervades Bach. The slow movements are serenely beautiful and the dance movements are propelled forwards with exuberant energy. This is Bach that swings like a sonofabitch, if it doesn’t have you foot-tapping nothing will. Comparing the Gigue of Argerich’s English Suite No. 2 (BWV 807) with, for instance, Angela Hewitt’s one could be forgiven for thinking that the latter had lost the musical plot slightly. Her use of rubato seems to dissolve the essential rhythmic framework of the piece and at times the musical threads seem to unravel to the point where one almost feels she has lost her place on the page. I should point out that I admire much of Ms Hewitt’s work and that the above only becomes apparent listening back-to-back with the Argerich. One aspect that struck me is that I don’t think I have ever been so conscious of an artist being in a state of flow before. The sense of concentration in the aforementioned Gigue is so palpable, so totally immersive, it seems almost zen-like. It really is an extraordinary effect. The 1979 DG recording is good, if not demonstration quality, with a very dry acoustic, although whether this was the result of a close-miked piano or some post-processing trickery is not clear to me. By comparison the highly reverberant acoustic of the Hyperion recording makes the piano sound quite woolly. Anyway, five stars straight off the bat. If you enjoy Bach solo piano you really owe it to yourself to sample this fabulous disc.

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